Cape Town - South Africa’s transport workers union Satawu threatened a “total shutdown” at major ports across the country from Thursday after issuing a 48-hour strike notice for mariners over a payment dispute, the union said on Tuesday. The South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu) called the strike after negotiations with management became deadlocked over salary discrepancies between black and white mariners, with what it says are white mariners drawing higher salaries than their black counterparts, even when less experienced. The union said striking workers included pilots who bring ships into port, tug masters who assist pilots moving ships and chief marine engineers who maintain ship performance and operate the engines.
“The mariners skills set is such that its withdrawal will result in a total shutdown at all ports,” Satawu said in a statement without indicating how many members were expected to support the strike. The national ports operator TNPA said it has taken measures to ensure minimal disruption at ports possibly affected, including South Africa’s main harbour at Durban along the east coast to emerging oil and gas hub Saldanha Bay on the west coast. “We have assessed the impact of the strike action and have activated contingency measures through our business continuity plans,” Nozipho Mdawe, acting chief executive at TNPA, said in a statement.