THOUSANDS of workers in the road freight and logistics industry are planning to embark on an indefinite strike from March 15 if their demands, including wage hikes, are not met.
South African Transport and Allied Workers’ Union (Satawu) general secretary Randall Howard said the mass action would be felt across the country and would involve extra-heavy and ultra-heavy vehicle drivers, light vehicle drivers, artisans, forklift drivers, gantry crane operators, loaders, packers, and general employees.
About 70000 workers are employed in the industry and 60000 are unionized and covered under the National Road Freight Bargaining Council.
Howard said following a Satawu meeting that its effect would be felt in a number of services, including cash-in-transit, furniture removals, general freight and logistics, which included the transportation of cash, fuel, chemicals, medical supplies, building supplies, perishable goods and livestock.
"The non transportation of building materials will definitely delay 2010 construction work. The same will apply to medical supplies and waste, which could create a health hazard," he said.
The union wants to down tools because it believes that the terms and conditions of employment in the industry remain very poor and minimum wages low, making it impossible for workers to mitigate the harsh economic realities they face. The minimum wage is R883, 88 a week for drivers and R579, 16 a week for general workers.
Workers also want labour broking to halt and a change to a 45-hour working week, as long hours negatively affects the quality of life of drivers because they are away from their families for long periods and there is more of a chance of collisions occurring.
Workers are demanding a minimum monthly salary of R6000 for drivers and R3000 for general workers.
They also want paid maternity leave for four months with a job guarantee, extending the scope of the bargaining unit to include supervisors, clerical and administrative staff, and new allowances to include hazardous cargo and occupational allowances.
Employers are offering a wage hike of 11% for drivers and 10, 5% for general workers. On maternity leave, they say a reserve fund does not cater for maternity contributions, and they are willing to accept extension of the bargaining unit subject to a verification process.
A strike notice will be issued to the bargaining council and the Road Freight Employers’ Association on March 10.