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South African petrochemical workers win three-week strike

19 August, 2016On 17 August, the Chemical Energy, Paper, Printing, Wood and Allied Workers Union (CEPPWAWU), an IndustriALL South African affiliate, signed new two-year agreement with the National Petroleum Employers' Association.

The deal is the culmination of a three-week strike that started on 28 July and was supported by some 15,000 petroleum workers at refineries, including the biggest owned by Chevron, Shell, BP and Sasol.
The strike affected the fuel supply in Gauteng province, where two of the country’s most important cities are located, the capital Pretoria and the largest city Johannesburg, the industrial hub of the country.
Although the quantitative effect of the strike was not extremely high, the strike forced the employers to recur to contingency measures to prevent fuel disruption across the country.
The initial workers’ demand included a 9 per cent wage increase, to compensate for the current inflation rate of 6.3 per cent. According to the new agreement the employers will pay 7 per cent raise this year and 1.5 per cent hike next year. Workers will receive their increase starting from July.
According to the new agreement employers also met workers’ demand for shift allowance although at a smaller rate.
Workers are supposed return to their workplaces on Monday, 22 August.
Commenting on the reached agreement CEPPWAWU chief negotiator, Jerry Nkosi said, “The strike was generally successful and finished with workers’ victory and improved working conditions. One disturbing factor though is that some companies including  SASOL and Total at the the refinery called Natref used union bashing tactics by paying workers a bonus for no participation in a strike. The strategy backfired, as the company later stopped the payments, but that has already dampened the moral of other workers in other establishments such as Engen, Shell and BP. This made the strike also difficult for the union.”