BUSINESSES in Nelson Mandela Bay are starting to feel the pinch from the two-week transport strike. And they have warned that a protracted strike by truck drivers will have a serious effect on business in the Bay and send a negative message to investors.
Transport and logistics company Grindrod's regional manager, Frederico Andrews, said its deliveries had ground to a halt, especially in hotspot areas such as Struandale and Markman where threats of intimidation and violence were rife.
He said there were no industries that were not affected by the strike.
"There are pharmaceutical and major automotive companies that cannot receive deliveries.
"Some have had to make alternative arrangements. Our first concern is the preservation of human life and to ensure that no one gets hurt," Andrews said.
Spar Eastern Cape managing director Conrad Isaac said stocks would be replenished at their stores as their local distribution centre was well stocked.
"The longer the strike continues the more difficult it will get, but for now we are very well taken care of," he said.
Continental Tyre SA spokeswoman Gishma Johnson said industrial action of this nature sent a negative message to investors who did business in the country.
However, she said the company had not really been affected at this stage.
"Our logistics service providers are able to deliver in areas where it is safe to enter and avoid hotspot areas.
"Should the transport strike continue over a longer period, it could have a harmful effect on our production as well as our product delivery."
Schaeffler SA managing director Len Terblanche said the Deal Party company could still operate although the strike had made deliveries "tricky and inconvenient".
"We are very apprehensive about some deliveries to hotspots, especially in Gauteng.
"But it has not crippled us for the moment. We have made special plans by using alternative routes and alternative contractors," he said.
Terblanche said an extended strike would do "incredible damage" to the country's economy and "send a bad picture to the rest of the world".
South African Breweries (SAB) spokeswoman Robyn Chalmers said the company had a plan in place to minimise disruptions in production and deliveries.
"SAB is experiencing some disruptions in the delivery of both beer and raw materials, but these are being managed," she said.
"We are deeply concerned about the incidences of violence being reported as a result of the strike and have put security measures in place."
South End Spar manager Jenny Robarts said the store had run low on fruit, vegetables and sweets yesterday after suppliers said they had difficulty in delivering products.
"Shelves were empty yesterday morning but, fortunately, since then we have received deliveries," she said.
Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber chief executive Kevin Hustler said the chamber had been advised that most businesses had contingency plans in place.
"We cannot condone violence or the wilful destruction of company and community property," he said.
"We call for a sense of calm to prevail and ensure that the negotiation process can take place, and we urge all parties to work together to find an amicable solution.
"Regretfully, we will be unable to measure the impact of recent events on the economy until circumstances return to normal. Only then will the negative knock-on effect in the local economy become clear.
"Illegal strikes and high demands place unrelenting pressure on the economy, not to mention the immeasurable damage done to the country's reputation as an international investment destination," Hustler said.
Service stations expressed concern yesterday about running out of fuel, as some deliveries had stopped due to the strike. Inland fuel stations, in towns such as Mthatha, have already run out of diesel.
Motherwell Service Station manager Ridwaan Adams said the station had last received a fuel delivery on Sunday.
"We have no idea when we are going to receive petrol. We are thinking we might get a private company to deliver," he said.
Engen Greenacres manager Keith Meaker said the station was extremely low on fuel and would not be able to obtain it from outside sources.
"We are very low on stock. We last received petrol on Monday," he said.
Greenbushes Service Station owner Jurie Snyman said he was still expecting a delivery of fuel.
"If my deliveries are affected then there is a risk that we will run dry on certain products," he said.
Engen spokeswoman Tania Landsberg said the company had not received any reports of its stations running dry in the Nelson Mandela Bay area.
"We are doing everything in our power to ensure our network stays wet, but it is challenging.
"There are contingency plans in place. The drivers in our fleet are not affiliated to any of the unions that are on strike but there is intimidation and our priority is to keep our staff safe," she said.
BP Circular Drive acting manager Marcus Minnie said while the station had plenty of fuel, he had run low on some chips and on bread in the store.
"I rushed to Makro and bought some items and filled the shelves myself after some of the suppliers could not pitch. The most important thing is that we still have fuel," he said.
The striking truck drivers belong to the SA Transport and Allied Workers' Union (Satawu), the Professional Transport and Allied Workers' Union SA, the Transport and Allied Workers' Union of SA, and the Motor Transport Workers' Union.
Negotiations aimed at ending the strike action are still at a stalemate, according to Satawu provincial secretary Honest Sinama.
Workers are demanding an increase of 12%, an increment on the provident fund as well as an additional allowance for transporting dangerous cargo.
Cash-in-transit workers are also demanding the allowance because of the risk associated with their work.
"Negotiations have not been successful at all," Sinama said.
"Employers have come up with a three-year agreement but workers rejected it because it was far less than they were looking at. They want to give workers benefits six months after the implementation date."
He said while there had been acts of violence and threats of intimidation, no Satawu workers were involved.
Police spokeswoman Brigadier Marinda Mills said two cases of malicious damage to property were opened at the Swartkops police station yesterday after about 70 striking workers assembled at the Truckers' Inn, picketing and throwing stones at passing trucks.
"Police responded to the scene and later redirected traffic to avoid the area," she said. – Additional reporting by Lesego Mokonane and Lihle Ntutumbo