Engineering News

SAfrica strike shuts PetroSA, affects other firms
Wed Aug 1, 2007 11:42AM EDT

JOHANNESBURG, Aug 1 (Reuters) - A South African strike over wages entered a third day on Wednesday after shutting down one petrol refinery, partially hobbling another and affecting pharmaceutical and packaging companies.

State-owned PetroSA shut its 36,000-barrel-a-day Mossel Bay gas-to-liquid plant on Tuesday, saying it had stock for the next three weeks.

U.S. oil major Chevron's 100,000-barrel-per-day refinery in Cape Town said some of its workers were on strike but that operations were normal.

"Chevron's operations have been marginally affected by this industrial action, but we are however continuing to supply product to our customers," the company said in a statement.

Keith Jacobs, deputy secretary-general of the Chemical, Energy, Paper, Printing, Wood and Allied Workers' Union (CEPPWAWU) union said that its shop stewards had agreed with managers at the SAPREF refinery to shut it down, but SAPREF declined to comment on the claims.

SAPREF, the country's largest such plant, referred questions to Alfie Ngubo, who represents petroleum sector employers in wage negotiations.

"The plant is operational. People are working. It is not shutting down," Ngubo said.

SAPREF is a 50-50 joint venture between Shell and BP and produces 180,000 bpd.

The strike began on Monday as more than 20,000 workers downed tools at companies in the pharmaceutical, tissue, glass and cardboard industries, the union said.

Africa's top generic drugmaker Aspen; rival Adcock Ingram, a unit of Tiger Brands; the continent's biggest packaging group Nampak; U.S.-based hygiene group Kimberley-Clarke; and glass firm Consol among other smaller companies have been hit, CEPPWAWU has said.

Welile Nolingo, the secretary general of the union, said the strike would continue until the union's wage demands were met.

He said union members at other refineries were expected to join the strike after CEPPWAWU rejected a fresh wage offer presented by the petroleum industry on Friday.

Other petrol refiners in Africa's biggest economy include Sasol, the world's biggest coal-to-fuels maker and petrochemical group which runs a 107,000-bpd Natref refinery, and Engen, which operates the 180,000 bpd refinery in Durban.

Nolingo said he would address workers at Sasol's plant on Wednesday to try to persuade them to down tools.

The union last Thursday issued a 48-hour strike notice after employers in the various sectors failed to meet its demand for a 10 percent wage increase.

Employers from the various sectors were offering wage increases ranging from 6.5 to 8 percent, the union said.

Source: Reuters

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