The South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Sacci) has slammed the transport strike as “economic sabotage”, while an economist has warned that the industrial action could seriously harm the country’s economy.
The strike, which started on Monday, continued on Thursday with acts of violence and intimidation reported.
Sacci CEO Neren Rau has condemned the protest by transport workers and said their action adversely impacted on the activities of all South Africans.
“Sacci calls upon the security authorities to protect the country against such acts of intimidation and to prosecute the perpetrators of such behavior to the full extent of the law.”
Newswire Sapa reported that striking truck drivers threw stones at drivers in Pinetown, while strikers were trying to immobilise the east of Johannesburg by blocking of main roads.
Efficient Group chief economist Dawie Roodt commented that the strikes had the potential to seriously harm the economy. “In circumstances such as these, with the latest strike being the road unions, you either need strong political leadership which can put these strikes to an end, or a company needs to ‘implode’ under its own weight, closing the company until the problems have lessened,” he noted.
Roodt said that some companies were already in deep financial trouble, and were bullied to give in to demands. “Perhaps it is time for business to stand up and say that enough is enough.”
Road Freight Association spokesperson Magretia Brown-Engelbrecht told Engineering News Online that unions had initially demanded a 9% wage, while employers offered an 8.5% raise in March 2013, followed by an additional 0.5% raise in September, to meet the 9%.
“But by Tuesday, the unions had rejected our offer and since demanded a 12% raise,” she said.
Negotiations with the South African Transport and Allied Workers' Union, the Professional Transport and Allied Workers' Union, the Transport and Allied Workers' Union and the Motor Transport Workers' Union had now reached a deadlock and Brown-Englebrecht said that meeting might be held late Thursday afternoon.
The transport workers' action brought the number of workers on strike in South Africa to over 100 000, with an estimated 80 000 workers participating in strikes in the mining industry.
Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa warned that government and law enforcement agencies would act against anyone found to be responsible for destruction such as burning of trucks and for intimidation of people.
“We are monitoring the situation and frankly what we have been observing is pure criminality. Acts of violent destruction and intimidation of innocent people cannot be justified as public protests and that is why we will act harshly against lawlessness. As we speak our intelligence is currently conducting an analysis of the situation and arrests on the perpetrators are imminent.
“Government recognises the democratic rights of any person to express their grievances, whether through a public protest or any other legal gathering as stipulated within the labour laws. However such rights do not imply that those who do not wish to participate in a strike must be intimidated, beaten and properties destroyed,” added the Minister.