Mediated talks to end a mass truckers strike in South Africa achieved some progress Tuesday, but the stayaway claimed its first fatality after a driver who was stoned while on the job died.
The Road Freight Employers Association said three minor unions had agreed to call off the stawaway in a meeting Tuesday, but that the main South African Transport & Allied Workers’ Union (SATAWU) was still on strike.
“The three unions advised that they came to this decision in light of the fact that employers have now offered double digits for the year,” the industry body said in a statement.
The strike by thousands of truckers, now in its third week, has hit deliveries of goods from cash for ATMs to fuel across the country while scores of trucks have been torched and drivers intimidated.
The three smaller unions who will suspend their boycott this afternoon have a combined employer representation of 15,000 which is half that of SATAWU’s which is part of the powerful COSATU labour federation.
“We are hoping that the outcomes will bring out an offer that the workers can accept which is a double digit wage increase,” Vincent Masoga, SATAWU spokesman, told AFP.
The strike took a deadly turn Monday when assistant driver Gary Stewart died in a Cape Town hospital after he was hit in the back of the head, while travelling as a passenger, by a stone allegedly hurled by strikers last week.
“He called to ask how I was. He said they had just left the airport and were on their way to do a delivery. Someone shouted his name three times and then the phone went dead,” Stewart’s sister Michelle Fisher told the Cape Times.
“Five minutes later the driver he was with called me and said, ‘Michelle we are in trouble, I think your brother is dead, he’s been hit with a stone’.”
The 41-year-old’s life support machines were switched off after doctors declared him brain dead in the latest strike violence amid a wave of mining stayaways that have killed nearly 50 people.