Johannesburg, South Africa — ESI-AFRICA.COM — 19 July 2011 – Employers in the South African petroleum industry have raised their wage offer to workers in an effort to end a week-long strike that has disrupted fuel supplies and threatened industrial activity in the country.
Reuters reports that tens of thousands of workers in the fuel sector walked off the job last week, delaying deliveries of petrol and diesel and sparking panic buying at pumps in Gauteng province, the country’s economic hub.
The industrial action intensified yesterday after Solidarity, a small but influential union, joined other labour groups in the walkout.
“Employers in the sector this afternoon made an offer of between 8 and 10%, depending on the employment level,” the union said.
The previous offer was for wages to rise by between 4 and 7%, while unions had been asking for 13%.
Solidarity is consulting with other labour groups on the revised offer before presenting it to its members. The strike will continue until a deal is reached, deputy secretary general Dirk Hermann said.
Fuel industry employers include BP Plc, Royal Dutch Shell, petrochemicals group Sasol, state-owned energy firm PetroSA, Engen, Chevron and Total.
Economists said the fuel strike may cost South Africa billions of rand and entrench an image of an investment destination prone to walk-outs and above-inflation wage demands in labour-intensive industries such as mining and manufacturing.
The strike action has caused hundreds of service stations to run out of fuel. “At the moment there are 260 dry sites across the country, 196 of them in Gauteng,” said Tania Landsberg, spokeswoman at fuel retailer Engen, which runs 510 service stations in Gauteng and 1,200 nationally.
Shell also said its fuel distribution remained constrained following a 12-hour stoppage on deliveries because of incidents of intimidation and violence by striking workers. “Around 157 Shell service stations are now without one or more grades of fuel,” the company said in a statement.