No more overtime?

Kea' Modimoeng

Kea' Modimoeng

Transnet Freight Rail, a division of the Transnet group, is in hot water with unions over the company's plans to cut overtime work.

Chris de Vos, general secretary of the United Transport and Allied Trade Union, said this move will "irreparably weaken" the company's skills base and cause a lot of disruptive and costly protests.

"Strike talk is already centre-stage at Transnet Freight Rail as stressed employees try to handle the shock waves generated by the company's announcement," De Vos said.

"Overtime pay, which accounts for more than a third of many workers' earnings, has been a fact of life for as long as most employees can remember. Consequently, they have structured their living costs on their gross incomes."

He said that if the overtime ban goes through, thousands of the company's employees "will be bankrupt".

"In the present economic climate, the company cannot afford this type of disruption, which is likely to cost the company far more than the overtime it is trying to avoid paying.

"Against all warnings, it is they who have engineered the situation where employees are paid around 50percent less than the market rate and have to put in long hours of overtime to make ends meet."

Jane Barrett, South African Transport and Allied Workers Union's policy research officer, said the union was meeting the company today to discuss this issue. "It seems there was a lot of inefficiency with regard to the way overtime was managed by the company".

Professor Jackie Walters from the University of Johannesburg's transport and economics department, said: "Transnet Freight Rail, which is mainly a commodity carrier, is affected by the decline in commodity demand.

"Cutting of overtime work is probably one of the company's survival strategies until the world economy picks up."

Efforts to establish why the company is trying to save an estimated R4,9 billion before the end of this financial year, and if it put measures in place late last year to address the global economic situation were unsuccessful as the company didn't respond at the time of going for print.