A NATIONWIDE strike by about 20,000 truck and freight drivers enters its second week today and threatens to further choke SA’s fragile economy.
Fuel, medical and food supplies are under pressure as contingency measures, such as temporary labourers and reserve fleets, are used nationwide.
The South African Petroleum Industry Association asked the public to refrain from panic buying, saying it could handle demand for the week if buying patterns remained normal.
Workers in the industry have been on strike, demanding a 12% pay hike. The Road Freight Employers Association has been offering 6%.
The unions with members on strike are the Transport and Allied Workers Union, the Motor Transport Workers Union, the Professional Transport and Allied Workers Union of SA, and the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu).
Respite was promised with a separate wage deal being placed on the table for cash-in-transit workers. Consumers would have been able to withdraw money under reliable circumstances and buying decisions would not be affected. But the Road Freight Employers Association yesterday distanced itself from such an agreement.
"The three cash-in-transit member companies last night signed an agreement with the Motor Transport Workers Union members. This agreement was not sanctioned by the (association) or any of the unions," said the association’s spokeswoman, Magretia Brown-Engelbrecht. "The Motor Transport Workers Union general secretary has also distanced himself from this agreement. The agreement therefore constitutes a plant-level agreement between the said companies and those union members."
She said the firms’ conduct undermined the road freight collective bargaining forum. "The effect is that whatever settlement agreement is eventually reached will also apply to cash-in-transit, since it will be the only agreement that will be enforceable once promulgated and extended by the labour minister."
The National Bargaining Council for the Road Freight and Logistics Industry also said the agreement should not be recognised.
"The parties do not recognise this so-called agreement," spokeswoman Karen Daniels said in a statement.
Russel Berman, a sales director at Spark ATM Systems, said on Friday he was concerned the strike would place "tremendous pressure" on banks, which had to refill automated teller machines often.
Overall, small and medium enterprises (SMEs), which often needed more cash to run their businesses, would suffer. "The strike threatens the SMEs, which have different business challenges and are supposed to grow employment ," he said.
The strike has been violent. Strikers have beaten up workers who chose not to down tools and trucks have been burnt nationwide.
The association gained an interdict on Friday from the Labour Court in Johannesburg ordering the strikers to refrain from violence.
The Democratic Alliance (DA) and labour analysts have called on anyone who was affected by strike violence to sue the unions.
"The unions partake in double-speak. They send out press releases … that they condemn violence but on the ground floor, they encourage aggressive marches," DA shadow labour minister Ian Ollis said.
Satawu spokesman Vincent Masoga last week blamed the violence on criminals : "Those who seek to destroy our progressive image and are hellbent on criminal and thuggish behaviour continue to opportunistically hijack our just cause to further their malicious practices."
Analyst Tony Healy said : "We need to have a certain number of marshals per a certain number of strikers. This still is not commonplace in labour actions in SA."