Bloomberg News

South African Gas Stations Run Dry as Strike Crimps Supplies

July 14, 2011

July 14 (Bloomberg) -- South African filling stations began running dry as the impact of a four-day-old strike over pay by petroleum industry workers intensified.

Fuel shortages hit more than 150 fuel stations in the central Gauteng Province, the country’s most populous, and 50 in eastern KwaZulu-Natal, the Fuel Retailers’ Association said today. Royal Dutch Shell Plc’s South African unit said at least 50 of its 230 retail sites in Gauteng had run out of stocks of one or more grades of fuel, as protests over the past two days disrupted deliveries.

“We have not been able to fully recover from a delivery backlog in Gauteng, since many retail sites are experiencing considerably higher sales,” Shell said in an e-mailed statement today. “We are trying our level best to maintain fuel deliveries and meet the increased demand. We are still experiencing sporadic incidents of intimidation.”

The strike by the Chemical, Energy, Paper, Printing, Wood and Allied Workers Union and the General Industries Workers Union of South Africa came after employers responded to demands for raises of as much as 13 percent with an offer of between 4 percent and 7 percent.

The South African Transport and Allied Workers Union said today that 65,000 members of its road freight division may strike in support of the petroleum industry workers.

Road freight workers will “mobilize solidarity support if called upon, including marches and pickets, with the striking members” should their wage demands go unmet, the union said in an e-mailed statement.

Mines Need Fuel

Open-cast mines in South Africa may run short of fuel within a few days if the strike continues, the Chamber of Mines said today.

Open-cast miners “usually keep a week’s worth of fuel in stock, so most should be able to last that long,” Dick Kruger, an assistant adviser at the Johannesburg-based chamber, said by phone today. “If the strike drags on, then problems can really develop.”

Workers are pushing for wage increases that are more than double the 4.6 percent inflation rate, arguing that surging food and fuel costs are driving down living standards. Wage talks in the coal, gold and platinum industries have also stalled, and unions have warned that labor action is imminent.

Municipal workers may strike as soon as next week, the state-owned South African Broadcasting Corp. reported today.

Engineering Workers Strike

A strike by steel and engineering industry workers entered its 11th day today. Workers are demanding 13 percent rises.

Employers have since made a revised pay offer, which the National Union Metalworkers of South Africa is discussing with its 320,000 members, said Irvin Jim, the union’s secretary general.

“We can’t disclose what those proposals are because talks are now at a sensitive stage,” he said by phone.

Calls to the Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of South Africa, which represents employers in the industry, weren’t immediately answered.

--Editors: Karl Maier, Heather Langan

To contact the reporters on this story: Brian Latham in Johannesburg at blatham@bloomberg.net; Mike Cohen in Cape Town at mcohen21@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Antony Sguazzin at asguazzin@bloomberg.net.


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