Unions demand no job cuts in billionaire’s take-over of Durban port

News24 reports that South Africa’s powerful labour unions could scupper plans to sell a stake in sub-Saharan Africa’s biggest container port and have it operated by Filipino billionaire Enrique Razon’s International Container Terminal Services Incorporated (ICTSI). The United National Transport Union and South African Transport and Allied Workers Union are demanding that ICTSI agree to no job cuts for the duration of the 25-year contract, their general secretaries said. They submitted this and other demands to ICTSI and Transnet before December but say they have yet to get a response. Transnet says it has engaged with them.

“We doubt they will agree to our conditions,” said Jack Mazibuko, the general secretary of Satawu, who added that his union plans to write to the parties again to demand an answer. “The ultimate outcome of this process must enhance the productivity and efficiency of the port terminals,” said Ellis Mnyandu, spokesman for the Department of Public Enterprises, who said while the minister has met the leaders of both unions, the department doesn’t get involved in procurement processes. “There must be no job losses and the conditions of services must remain the same,” he added.

Under the agreement, ICTSI will pay an undisclosed amount for just under half of Durban Container Terminal Pier 2 and will run and expand the facility, which accounts for three-quarters of the volumes that passes through the port in the southeast of the country and 46% of the nation’s total port traffic. The plan would be to expand its annual throughput to 2.8 million twenty-foot equivalent units from 2 million currently. Steven Leshabana, the president of Untu, confirmed the demand. ICTSI declined to comment.

Transnet said it has held numerous consultations with the two unions “primarily focused on the treatment of employees,” and said workers won’t lose their jobs as they cross over to the joint venture. Expected growth will minimise the risk of future job cuts, the operator said. Assets at the terminal are currently worth R2.5 billion and at the end of the contract, Transnet will buy the shares back from the partner, the South African company said. Before the deal can be concluded, agreements with labour must be finalised and a due diligence carried out in ICTSI, Transnet said.

by Antony Sguazzin and Loni Prinsloo

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