The strike, led by the SA Transport and Allied Workers’ Union (SATAWU), turns on a 12.5% wage increase demand against an offer of 8.5% from employers. A strike is potentially crippling for the South African economy. Last week (October 1), for instance, Shell declared force majeure on fuel deliveries in South Africa's Gauteng province.
Transnet said it had been served with a notice of a walkout “in a week’s time”. The walkout, a sympathy action from rail and port labour, will only last for a day as it’s currently envisaged, but the spread of industrial action through the backbone of South African industry is not a welcome development.
“We are considering the notice and will activate our contingency measures,” Transnet said in response.
Interruptions to Transnet Freight Rail’s (TFR’s) Mpumalanga province to Richards Bay rail route comes at a delicate time for the state-owned logistics division. Operating statistics from Richards Bay Coal Terminal showed deliveries declined by about 100kt in September compared to August deliveries of 6.2Mt. TFR is aiming for deliveries of 75Mt in its 2012/13 financial year.
The truck drivers’ strike has, meanwhile, slowed coal deliveries domestically and raised concerns that certain Eskom power stations vulnerable to coal supply disruptions could result in blackouts.
Eskom said it had an average of 44 days of coal inventories at its power stations, but this is to hide the fact that its return-to-service power stations have much lower coal inventories. These are the operations that Eskom re-opened amid following the power deficit of 2010; they are mature power stations reliant on trucked-in coal.
An industry source told South African Coal Report (SACR) some 3,800MW was made potentially vulnerable by the truck drivers’ strike, power produced by Komati (1,000MW), Camden (1,600MW) and Grootvlei (1,200MW). Komati has a stockyard only large enough to store coal capacity for a few days, the source said.
“There’s a bit of distress regarding the availability of petrol owing to the truck drivers, but you should also throw the risk of load-shedding into the mix,” he said.
Eskom spokesperson, Hilary Joffe, said the utility was monitoring the situation.
SACR has received mixed reports about the effect of the truck drivers’ strike on the country’s coal producers.
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