Striking S.Africa truckers mulling "final offer

Reuters , Friday 18 Feb 2011

South African transport unionists discuss wage offers as trucker strike continues this week

Striking South African truckers were meeting on Friday to discuss a revised wage offer aimed at ending a nearly week-long strike that has slowed some transport in Africa's largest economy.

The strike, marred by violence, has caused a few petrol stations to run dry and raised concerns that a prolonged walk-out could hurt businesses and state power provider Eskom.

"We confirmed to them last night that the offer of a 9 percent increase this year and 8.5 percent next year was an absolute final offer," said Magretia Brown-Engelbrecht, labour manager with the industry group Road Freight Association.

"They have agreed to take it to their members and said they would report back to us at around 2 pm (1200 GMT)," she told Reuters.

The group's initial offer was for a 7.5 percent raise this year and 7.5 percent next year.

The South African Allied Transport Worker's Union (SATAWU) the biggest union in the industry, and three others walked off the job at the weekend, demanding a 20 percent pay increase over the next two years, housing allowances and shorter hours.

A SATUWU official said the group was discussing the offer and would report its decision later in the day.

More than 30,000 truckers, who serve retailers and other businesses in South Africa and its neighbouring states, have taken part in the strike.

Eskom [ESCJ.UL], which receives nearly 30 per cent of its coal by road, said it had not received supplies since Wednesday. But it has 40 days of coal stockpiles, which should cushion it from supply disruptions.

Spokeswoman Hilary Joffe said a long strike would have devastating consequences.

The Road Freight Association spokeswomen said: "For the most part, we have been able to meet our contractual obligations."

Last year several unions, including those representing about a million state workers, won pay rises of more than double the rate of inflation, leading the finance ministry to say the deals posed a threat to the economy.

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