Transport union threatens to scrap wage agreement over ‘breakdown of trust’

Untu secretary general, Steve Harris.

The United National Transport Union (Untu) has announced that it has withdrawn from monetary negotiations with Transnet and is considering terminating the agreement reached on wages.

This follows what Untu secretary general Steve Harris called a “breakdown in our trust relationship” as Transnet did not disclose the R222 million financial assistance granted to SA Express Airways in December 2017, during its wage negotiations with organised labour.

He said that throughout the negotiations Transnet had maintained and submitted financial statements to indicate that it had been experiencing cash flow problems after being downgraded to junk status by credit ratings agency, Standard & Poor’s, in November last year.

Harris pointed out that the state-owned entity (SOE) had deliberately withheld crucial information which was only brought to light during a recent audit process.

“Throughout the negotiations, Transnet maintained that a multi-term agreement was needed to convince investors to invest in the SOE,” said Harris. “Unless organised labour agreed to the multi-term agreement, Transnet refused to include the no-retrenchment clause needed to secure the work of our more vulnerable members.”

The audit showed that the Transnet board of directors, led by chairwoman Linda Mabaso who has since resigned, had approved the short-term capital loan to SA Express on the authority of former Public Enterprises minister Lynne Brown.

“We signed a multi-term agreement for a 7.1% wage increase for three years with a mandate from the majority of our members based on the financial statements and projections presented to us by Transnet,” said Harris. “Now it is clear that Transnet has misled the union.”

Untu secretariat, John Pereira, told FTW Online that the termination of the wage agreement would depend on talks with Transnet CEO Siyabonga Gama which were likely to be held at the end of this month.

He noted that while he could not say with certainty what Untu’s actions would be following a further breakdown of talks between the union and Transnet, it might lead to renegotiation of the wage agreement or the addition of other demands.

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