Fuel strike ends after deal struck

Sector back to work by Monday

Fuel sector workers are expected to be back at work by Monday after intervention by the Commission for Conciliation‚ Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) helped to bring a three-week strike over a wage increase to an end.

The strike by members of the Chemical, Energy, Paper, Printing, Wood and Allied Workers Union (Ceppwawu), which saw some petrol stations run dry, ended after the union agreed to the 7% wage rise proposed by the National Petroleum Employers’ Association.

The workers union initially demanded a 9% wage hike but signed a two-year agreement that includes a 7% increase in the first year and a 1.5% increase in the second year above a consumer price index-linked hike.

About 15 000 striking workers affiliated to Ceppwawu went on strike at refineries and fuel depots operated by BP, Shell, Chevron and Sasol, among others.

The CCMA stepped in to resolve the matter when the two parties reached a deadlock in negotiations last week.

“We would like to believe that the involvement of the CCMA assisted in the wage deal being signed and the matter resolved because both parties were firm in their positions,” Petroleum Employers’ Association deputy chairman Zimisele Majamane said

“They probably needed an external party to give a different perspective and the CCMA commissioner managed to do that,” Majamane said.

“We are relieved we’ve eventually signed an agreement and that the strike is officially off.”

Majamane said while the strike’s effects on the sector could not be quantified, the sector had to put in place contingency measures to ensure fuel was distributed across the country.

The strike‚ which was in its third week‚ caused little disruption in the supply of petrol to the pumps‚ as oil companies rolled out contingency plans. This may have given employers the upper hand in negotiations. Ceppwawu chief negotiator Jerry Nkosi said the union agreed with employers that workers would be backpaid for the month of July based on the agreed increase.

Another small victory for workers was the referral of the issue of a shift allowance to the industry bargaining council.

Workers wanted an 18% shift allowance. Employers were offering 6%.

Workers will be given until Monday to return to their posts as some may have gone to their rural homes for the strike period.

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