Unions, Transnet meet to end SAfrica transport strike

* Unions to meet with Transnet, mediator at 1200 GMT

* 59 pct of Transnet’s staff involved in labour action

JOHANNESBURG, May 14 (BestGrowthStock) – Striking South African
transport unions will meet logistics group Transnet [TRAN.UL] on
Friday in a bid to resolve a wage dispute that has paralysed the
country’s port and rail operations.

The five-day strike hit deliveries of metals, fruit and wine
to customers in Europe and Asia after nearly two-thirds of
Transnet’s 54,000-strong workforce joined the labour action.

The strike is the latest protest ahead of next month’s
soccer World Cup, being held in Africa for the first time.

The unions are due to meet Transnet and a mediator at 1200
GMT on Friday in a bid to end the dispute.

“We do not anticipate that the process will be quick or
easy, but it marks the start of a process towards resolution of
the deadlock,” the South African Transport and Allied Workers
Union (Satawu) said in a statement.

Satawu and the United Transport and Allied Trade Union
(Utatu) represent some 85 percent of Transnet’s staff.

Transnet said the container sector in ports and rail
operations were hardest hit so far, but it was still able to
meet its critical export requirements and move bulk commodities.

Transnet does not operate passenger services and is not a
big transporter of coal to power plants, but a prolonged strike
could also affect imports, internal fuel supplies and exports of
iron ore and coal.

Producers of fruit said they were already running out of
storing capacity for produce they cannot export.[ID:nLDE64C15O]

The impact on coal and iron ore exports has been limited due
to built-up stocks at ports, but the firms have said they would
start feeling the crunch if the strike goes beyond this week.

Miners said they were running out of space and would need to
curtail production if they cannot ship products to ports. South
Africa is one of the world’s biggest coal exporters, mainly to
power plants in Europe and Asia.[ID:nLDE64B1GM]

Global miner Xstrata (XTA.L: ) on Wednesday declared a force
majeure, halting shipment of ferrochrome, a key ingredient in
stainless steel, and chrome ore. Samancor, the world’s
2nd-biggest producer, did the same, traders said.[ID:nLDE64B2B7]

The unions are asking for a 15 percent pay rise, above the
11 percent offered by Transnet, fuelling criticism among
analysts and the central bank who say a pay rise well above the
5.1 inflation rate would hamper South Africa’s recovery.

Transnet said it was willing to discuss options other than a
further wage raise to end the strike, but stressed that going
beyond 11 percent was unaffordable and unsustainable.

In a separate move, Satawu said it would strike over pay at
passenger transport service Metrorail from Monday, with Utatu
expected to join, which could affect millions of commuters.

Stock Report

(Reporting by Agnieszka Flak; editing by Philippa Fletcher)

Unions, Transnet meet to end SAfrica transport strike