Fuel strike: ‘The situation is dire’


Johannesburg – There is no end in sight for the fuel strike that has left many filling stations in Gauteng and other parts of the country dry.

As the strike entered its seventh day on Wednesday the blame game between the Chemical Energy Paper Printing Wood and Allied Workers Union (Ceppwawu) and industry representatives raged.

As the strike by refinery workers enters its fifth day, petrol pumps in Johannesburg and Pretoria are running dry. Picture: Antoine de Ras / INLSA
As the strike by refinery workers enters its fifth day, petrol pumps in Johannesburg and Pretoria are running dry. Picture: Antoine de Ras / INLSA

It emerged on Tuesday that negotiations had deadlocked again in the nationwide fuel strike. National Petroleum Employers’ Association deputy chairman Zimisele Majamane said its members were trying to make sure fuel was delivered to pumps but they had been advised to put contingency plans in place.

“Wage talks have deadlocked and there is no new date that has been set to continue negotiations,” he said.

Ceppwawu’s head of the bargaining council, Clement Chitja, said they would continue with demonstrations to force the industry to pay attention. “The situation is dire. Employers are using every tactic to derail our strike. We have been waiting, but nothing has come out,” he said.

Chitja accuses the employers of using scare tactics such as calling in riot police even though their strike has been peaceful. “How can managers who are getting huge increases deny our members a mere 9 percent, it is unacceptable,” he said.

The employers have offered 7 percent.

He dismissed any talks that the strike was planned to hold the country to ransom and strategically planned to coincide with the municipal elections. “We are simply demanding the wage increase; it’s not our fault that there are elections.”

He said, however, that they were hopeful that employer representatives would meet with them sooner.

About 15 000 workers affiliated to the union downed tools on Thursday. On Monday, the SA Petroleum Industry Association’s chief executive Avhapfani Tshifularo denied there was a crisis as he sought to reassure motorists after some filling stations ran dry.

“We would encourage motorists to stick to their normal refuelling patterns,” said Tshifularo. He admitted though that they had had difficulties delivering fuel to petrol stations due to acts of intimidation by striking workers, especially in Gauteng. “In all the major hubs we are seeing lot of strike activities, but Gauteng, in particular Pretoria, is very bad. We are treating Gauteng as a priority area.”

Cosatu pledged solidarity with Ceppwawu on Tuesday. “It is unacceptable that the employers have refused to accede to the workers’ reasonable demands, especially with the high consumer price inflation,” its spokesman Sizwe Pamla said.



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