South African National Transport Strike Enters Fifth Day, Talks Planned

South African exports of metals, wine and fruit where stalled for a fifth day as a strike at ports and railroads looked likely to drag on into the weekend.

State-owned transport company Transnet Ltd. is meeting union representatives in Johannesburg today, said Jane Barrett, a negotiator for the South African Transport and Allied Trade Union. The independent Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration will mediate the talks, she said. Workers are demanding a 15 percent wage increase, while Transnet is offering a maximum of 11 percent.

“It’s very unlikely we’ll have a solution tonight,” Barrett said in an interview from Johannesburg. “Whatever they offer us, we’ll still have to go back to our members for approval.”

Ferrochrome producers Xstrata Plc, Samancor Ltd. and Ruukki Group have declared force majeure on shipments of the steel- making ingredient. Anglo American Plc’s Kumba Iron Ore Ltd. did the same, I-net Bridge reported today, citing spokesman Tebello Chabana. Force majeure is a legal clause that allows producers to miss contracted deliveries because of circumstances beyond their control.

Africa’s largest economy may lose “billions of rand” if the strike isn’t resolved soon, Johan Botha, an economist at Johannesburg-based Standard Bank Group Ltd., said yesterday.

Most of Transnet’s operations remain at a standstill while more than half of the company’s 54,000 employees are not working, Transnet spokesman Mboniso Sigonyela said in a phone interview. “It’s the same as yesterday,” he said.

Fruit and Wine

Loading of citrus fruit has stopped completely, according to Transnet. South Africa is the world’s second-largest citrus producer after Spain, according to Justin Chadwick, chief executive officer of the nation’s Citrus Growers Association.

“If it isn’t over this weekend it’ll be a crisis because the cold storage will be full,” Chadwick said in a phone interview from Johannesburg today.

Wine shipments have also been halted, James Reid, vice chairman of Wines of South Africa, which represents 500 wine exporters, said yesterday.

Coal stocks at the privately owned Richards Bay Coal Terminal, which ships most of the nation’s coal, are likely to last another four weeks, Xavier Prevost, a coal analyst at XMP Consulting, said yesterday.

Strikers have caused more than 20 million rand of damage to equipment during the labor action, Transnet Chief Executive Officer Chris Wells said in an open letter to workers, a copy of which was e-mailed to Bloomberg News today.

Goods for the soccer World Cup, which starts in less than a month, were successfully moved, Wells said.

Negotiators from both sides are eager to find a solution, Eddie de Klerk, the deputy general secretary of United Transport & Allied Trade Union.

“Resolution is what we’re aiming for,” de Klerk said. “We think anything is possible.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Franz Wild in Johannesburg at fwild@bloomberg.net

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