Home South African Transnet has recovery plan to minimise strike’s impact on Christmas shopping

Transnet has recovery plan to minimise strike’s impact on Christmas shopping

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Transnet’s National Ports Authority has developed a recovery plan to ensure all imported cargo stacked at the ports will be delivered in time for Christmas shopping, in the hope that the strike will end soon.

The Transnet wage strike continues to cripple the state-owned ports and rail logistics company. Picture: Leon Lestrade/ANA

TRANSNET’s National Ports Authority has developed a recovery plan to ensure all imported cargo stacked at the ports will be delivered in time for Christmas shopping, in the hope that the strike will end soon.

The plan was revealed by Moshe Mothlohi, Transnet’s managing executive for the eastern region, amid ongoing negotiations with unions.

The state-owned port authority has been at loggerheads with its workers over salary increases. This has resulted in a strike that has dragged on for over two weeks, bringing the ports to a standstill.

The labour unions, the United National Transport Union and the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union, are demanding an above-inflation salary increase, while Transnet is offering 4-5%. The workers were demanding at least 10%.

Ports are critical components of the country’s economy, as over 80% of exports and imports are moved through seagoing vessels.

The Durban Chamber of Commerce said that, so far, the strike had cost the country over R3 billion.

Agriculture has been among the most affected industries, particularly time-bound produce.

Berry-fruit farmers lamented that the strike had occurred during the peak of the berry export season and feared 30,000 jobs could be lost.

Thabi Ndhlovu of Berries SA said the industry had been severely impacted by ongoing operational issues at the country’s ports as a result of ageing and out-of-service infrastructure, inefficient systems, and staff shortages.

She said poor port performance had led to delayed shipments, which had in turn affected the quality of the berries reaching international markets. This had resulted in product rejection rates from receiving clients skyrocketing to an unprecedented R250 million last year.

As of Friday, there was still a stalemate, despite three ministers – Pravin Gordhan for public enterprises, Thoko Didiza for agriculture, and Thulas Nxesi for employment and labour – having met the unions to find solutions.

Workers protested in various ports and vowed not to return to work until their demands had been met.

Mothlohi said that, while they were monitoring the negotiations in the hope that an agreement would be reached soon, the port authority had made plans to clear all backlogs as soon as possible after the strike had ended.

He was adamant all goods would reach the shelves before Christmas shopping began.

As part of the plan, he said Transnet would work with private depots and implement a 24-hour service seven days a week to ease congestion.

“We have four pillars that we plan to apply as part of the evacuation plan once the strike has been resolved.

“During the course of the strike, we have not been receiving goods through our harbours, so we have calculated the (number of) containers we have and developed a plan around that.

“The railway services will be utilised to their capacity to take goods to various points, so that trucks do not converge in one place.

“There are still challenges caused by the floods, but we have been working to get it back (to) where it was before the floods,” he said.

In a joint statement, the ministers said the government was concerned about the negative impact of the strike on the citrus, grape, berry and mineral resources sectors, all of which were dependent on Transnet for their logistical services.

The ministers said they were engaging with all affected parties – labour, industry, and the Transnet board of directors.

“We have met with both unions. In addition, we have been meeting the business sector regularly to keep them informed of developments and explore areas of collaboration,” they said.

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