A dispute between management and workers of the South African Transport Services (SATS) in two East Cape harbours could seriously endanger industrial relations in South Africa.
GV & SVs Cargo ships being unloaded at quayside (3 shots)
SV PAN GV Cargo being loaded onto ships (2 shots)
CU Portrait of dead trade unionist Neal Aggett
SV ZOOM IN SCU Mr. David Lewis General Secretary of the General Workers' Union speaking in his office
SVs Executive committee members of General Workers' Union singing prior to meeting (2 shots)
TRANSCRIPT: LEWIS: (SEQ 4) "It's really quite simple. The fact is that the majority of South African railway working in the harbours of East London and Port Elizabeth are members of the union and have been for nearly a year now. And they're wanting their employers to recognise this fact. The reason why this dispute has taken on a particularly antagonistic character is that the response of the employers to the workers joining the union has been to call in the police. There's been the most extraordinary degree of police intervention. Leaders of the railway workers have been victimised . People have been threatened, they've been harassed, they've been intimidated, or there have been attempts to intimidate them. And also attempts have been made to press-gang them into dispute is about union recognition, the workers wish to talk about. But primarily they wish to be recognised. They want management to talk to representatives of their own choice."
JOURNALIST: "What are the possible consequences of a strike actually breaking out?"
LEWIS: "The consequences are pretty horrific. First the degree of police intervention that there's already been in this situation leads us to believe quite obviously that there is going to be a really excessive degree of police intervention in the strike. And we're even worried about the possibility of bloodshed if the police carry on the way they do."
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Background: A dispute between management and workers of the South African Transport Services (SATS) in two East Cape harbours could seriously endanger industrial relations in South Africa. The dispute arose because about 1,000 SATS employees at the East London and Port Elizabeth docks asked SATS authorities to recognise their unregistered General Workers Union (GWU). SATS General Manager, Dr. Loubser has so far refused to negotiate with the predominantly black union on the grounds that the management-controlled Black Staff Association already represent workers. The GWU's secretary Mr. David says SATS employees have the lawful right to be represented by the union of their own choice. He claims that workers who have joined the GWU have been intimidated by the authorities. He says some have been arrested, others have had their homes searched. In January, a GWU Workers' Committee chairman, Mr. Jeremiah Tolwana, was dismissed on the grounds that he was a casual worker. He had been a SATS employee for 13 years. A strike by GWU members could have dire consequences, as the union has the support of the powerful International Transport Workers Federation.