SAfrica fuel strike to widen after smaller union joins

JOHANNESBURG, July 13 (Reuters) – Industrial action in South Africa’s petroleum sector that is threatening fuel and medicine supplies is likely to intensify after a union said on Wednesday it would join another union already on strike.

Thousands of workers in the petroleum, chemical and pharmaceutical industries stopped working from Monday, demanding wage increases triple the inflation rate and twice what was offered by employers in the sector.

Africa’s biggest economy has already started to feel the fuel pinch, with shortages recorded in the northern province of Gauteng, the country’s economic hub.

“We have three big depots there and trucks are not able to come in or out so we are unable to deliver our product,” said Tania Landsberg, spokeswoman at fuel retailer Engen.

“So far, 16 service stations in Johannesburg have gone dry, as well as two in Pretoria and one in Durban.” Engen runs 114 service stations in Gauteng and 1,200 nationally.

Other employers in the sector include petrochemicals group Sasol , state-owned energy group PetroSA, BP Plc , Royal Dutch Shell (RDSa.L: Quote), Chevron and Total .

The Chemical, Energy, Paper, Printing, Wood and Allied Workers Union (CEPPWAWU) said it represented 70,000 employees across the fuel, chemicals and pharmaceuticals industries.

The smaller Solidarity union, which said it would join the strike, said it represented 40 percent of the employees at Sasol’s Secunda synthetic fuels plant in the northern province of Mpumalanga.

“Solidarity’s members in this sector, specifically at PetroSA, will strike from tomorrow. Employees at Sasol Secunda are also expected to join the strike soon,” the union said.

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