SAfrica transport unions seem split over wage deal

* Biggest union says majority of workers favour deal

* Smaller union still counting votes, may reject it

JOHANNESBURG, May 21 (BestGrowthStock) – A South African transport
strike that has crippled rail and port operations may drag on
after unions appeared to diverge over whether to accept a
proposed wage deal by logistics group Transnet.

The strike, in its second week, has curbed exports of
metals, cars, fruit and wine to Europe and Asia as well as
imports of vehicle parts and fuel supplies just three weeks
before the start of the soccer World Cup in June.

The United Transport and Allied Trade Union (UTATU),
Transnet’s [TRAN.UL] biggest union, said most members favoured
the deal and the union expected to approve it on Friday. Workers
would report back to work on Monday.[ID:nWEA3331]

The South African Transport and Allied Workers Union, the
smaller union representing Transnet workers, was still counting
members’ votes from across the country and there were signs it
might not embrace the deal.

“They have not accepted it at all. We are going to
consolidate (what we have) in the office around (0700 GMT) this
morning, but so far they have not accepted it so we’ll see about
the way forward,” Satawu President Ezrom Mabyana told Reuters.

The transport sector strike may be wrapped up next week, but
another protest looms at state power utility Eskom.

A threat by a large number of Eskom workers to strike over a
longstanding pay dispute starting next Wednesday could disrupt
power supply in Africa’s biggest economy and embarrass President
Jacob Zuma’s government before the world’s premier sports event.
[ID:nWEA3067]

The two unions at state-owned Transnet represent 85 percent
of the logistic group’s 54,000-strong workforce.

Utatu said it had yet to call off the strike as Transnet
postponed a meeting at which the parties were expected to sign
the deal until Friday.

Transnet said it would only be able to confirm later on
Friday if more employees had reported to work. Two-thirds of its
workforce have been on strike since Monday last week.

Striking transport workers are under pressure from the
government to end the strike, while the workers themselves are
feeling the pinch because they are not paid while on strike.

Economists have estimated losses in the hundreds of millions
of rand, but this would rise to billions if the strike dragged
on, and it may take weeks to clear the backlog at the ports.

The strike has hurt global firms with units in South Africa.

Anglo American Plc (AAL.L: ), Xstrata (XTA.L: ) and the world’s
top steelmaker ArcelorMittal (ISPA.AS: )(MT.N: ) have declared force
majeure on the supply of iron ore, ferrochrome and steel
respectively. Transnet also declared force majeure on coal
destined for export. [ID:nLDE64I2B8]

So far, coal exports to power plants in Europe and Asia have
not been affected thanks to stocks at the ports, traders said.

Utatu said it has already sigend an agreement to end a
parallel strike affecting millions of commuters, with operations
expected to resume over the weekend.

For a Q&A on South African strikes, see [ID:nLDE64J0V6]

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(Reporting by Agnieszka Flak and Phumza Macanda; Editing by
Mark Heinrich)

SAfrica transport unions seem split over wage deal