Fuel strike to go ahead

31 August 2010 - 18:02
By Sapa

Workers in the fuel industry were expected to start striking on Wednesday, the Fuel Retailers Association CEO Reggie Sibiya said.

“We were served a notice to strike on Friday... with the strike to start on Wednesday and we are still operating under that instruction at the moment,” Sibiya told Sapa.

A meeting was due to be held with the National Union of Metalworkers (Numsa) in Johannesburg on Tuesday afternoon, he said.

“We are meeting Numsa now but I don’t think that’s going to stop the strike.”

He said the meeting was likely to discuss the “framework in which we engage each other”.

This was because the “gaps between our demands and theirs are too huge”.

The strike would reportedly affect service at petrol stations, but Sibiya said no garages would be closed.

“Not everybody is part of the union so garages will not close.”

He said the union had demanded an increase of the hourly wage from R13 to R20.

This was almost a 50 percent increase, he said.

If double pay on Sundays, increases in night shift allowances, and decreasing the working week from 45 hours to 40 hours, among other factors, were taken into account the increase would be 89 percent on the current structure, Sibiya said.

“This is such a big jump,” he said, adding that they had introduced a “huge wage adjustment” of 68 percent in 2007 to bring the industry in line with minimum living wage expectations.

This was followed by above-inflation increases in 2008 and 2009.

“It is also important in our industry to note that we are regulated.”

As the margin is regulated, any increase in costs would impact the fuel pump price.

“This leads to inflation... and would affect the whole economy.”

He said they had signed an agreement with the union preventing intimidation and victimisation.

Sibiya could not say how many of the fuel industry employees were expected to strike. The industry has 56,000 employees but he did not yet know how many were members of unions.

Numsa spokesman Castro Ngobese said the strike was “going ahead” and they would issue a statement shortly.