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Transnet was back in full swing at South African ports yesterday, after the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (SATAWU) called off its industrial action.

The union’s negotiating team will continue to engage with management via the Transnet Bargaining Council, following larger union UNTU signing an agreement to end its strike earlier this week.

However, according to the South African Association of Freight Forwarders (SAAFF), there is much work to be done now.

CEO Juanita Maree believes the port strike cost companies nearly R7bn ($380m) in logistics costs over the 11 days.

“While SAAFF is very pleased that an agreement has finally been reached, we must stress that the hard work only starts now, as, according to our reports, most port terminals are operating at productivity levels somewhere between medium and normal,” she said.

“Barring any further destructions, a complete restoration of normal functionality will only happen in early 2023,” she added.

And Dr Maree has proposed a set of solutions to get the ports working well again.

These include: multimodal back-up facilities, in particular “a robust functional rail sector”; policy alignment to ensure efficient movement of goods, with the government offering help in exchange for taxes and levies; improved port efficiencies, with a strong independent ports regulator and competition between ports; accountability, including KPIs for all players; and no profiteering, with “transparency in all dealings”.

She said: “There are positive lessons to be learned from this situation. We can work together and create prosperity for all, instead of allowing greed and self-interest to cloud our broader holistic view. The private sector needs to redouble its work and find new ways to ensure that government takes its share of responsibility.

“Unfortunately, it was clear that the interests of SA Inc. were not considered (knowingly or unknowingly) during the strike, as South Africa lost the opportunity of moving R65.3bn worth of goods,” she added.

“Some of that will possibly move later, but the rest is gone, and gone forever. Considering that cost of the wage increase – if adopted across the board for all workers at Transnet – is, in relative terms, a mere R1.5bn, we need to realise the consequences of actions from all parties.”

Dr Maree, who had declined to comment during the strike for fear of making the situation worse, added that prevention was better than a cure.

“For the logistics industry, that means trade must occur using shared infrastructure, with shared responsibilities from all parties. If goods can’t move, the economy stops. And if the economy stops, the impact is hugely negative for anything related to the movement of cargo – including time, cost and service reliability.”

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  • CY Xu

    October 23, 2022 at 2:10 am

    Cooperation is important.