Transnet must ensure greater efficiency of rail transport and must “massively increase” the productivity of the ports to ensure that it meets the market requirements.
This was the words of Pravin Gordhan, Minister of Public Enterprises, when he addressed the Federation of Trade Unions of South Africa (Fedusa) 2021 Leadership and Collective Bargaining Conference with the theme, “Unity in action during Covid-19”.
The United National Transport Union (UNTU) is affiliated to Fedusa.
Gordhan used Transnet as example when he explained the role of state-owned enterprises (SOE’s) in stimulating economic growth after the devastating impact of the pandemic on the South African economy.
According to the Minister all SOE’s must match and beat the service levels of competitors to ensure that the country is the preferred service provider.
“If the Port of Durban fails to match the crane moves per hour of other ports in the rest of the world or ensure that the laytime of vessels are non-existent, then South Africa won’t attract more customers.
“But if the Port of Maputo in Mozambique or the Port of Mombasa in Kenya develop to deliver a better service than Durban, then those ports will get more business. It is crucial that our SOE’s match the requirements of its customers,” says Gordhan.
According to the Minister Organised Labour plays an important role in ensuring that investors’ confidence is restored in the country after the decade of State Capture.
Gordan referred to Government’s proposal that pension funds should invest in infrastructure development in the country.
“The question we get from the international community is if South Africans are not prepared to invest in their own economy, why should they.”
According to the Minister Transnet must form partnerships with private sector entities in the rail environment and in the ports to obtain world class investments of billions of Rands that would assist with job creation and to overcome unemployment.
Sonja Carstens, Media, Liaison and Communication Officer of UNTU, told the Minister that Transnet’s proposed collaboration with the private sector boils down to privatisation which might lead to thousands of Transnet employees losing their jobs.
UNTU represents the majority of Transnet employees.
She asked Gordhan why Transnet employees should bear the brunt for the more than R210 billion the SOE lost due to State Capture. She also wanted to know if the Minister can guarantee that the proposed collaboration of Transnet with the private sector will not result in job losses.
According to Gordhan State Capture did not distinguish between workers and managers.
“Workers must not be shielded from the impact of State Capture. The narrative that workers was excluded is a wrong narrative as workers on all levels of the SOE’s were part of the corruption,” says Gordhan.
According to him Government is not aiming for privatisation but wants to enter concessions with private companies who will employ workers.
“We (Government) don’t want to see job losses. We want to protect jobs as far as possible,” says Gordhan.
Steve Harris, General Secretary of UNTU, says this is how trust is broken. The matter of Private Strategic Partnerships was discussed in the Consultation forum and management had gone so far as to make it clear that the presentations are confidential. At no stage has any detail been given to labour as to whom Transnet wishes to enter a partnership with and what will the implications be, if any, to our constituency. However, the matter should be dealt with in the Transnet Restructuring Committee.
Harris had it noted and subsequently wrote a letter to Transnet to refer the matter to the restructuring committee.
“We will not agree to privatisation. Perhaps some memories are very short as in 2006 in Transnet labour embarked on a legal strike which cost the economy dearly as a result of Transnet Managements poor/refusal to engage fully in terms of the restructuring agreement.
“We trust that Management will not repeat the mistakes of the past and ensure that they comply and engage fully with Labour on these matters,” says Harris.
Media, Liaison and Communication Officer
o.b. o SA Harris