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South Africa’s petrochemical and pharmaceutical strike could hit oil refineries

By Wendell Roelf and Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo
Posted on Wednesday, 27 July 2016 11:00

Around 23,000 workers in the petrochemical and pharmaceutical sectors are expected to down tools, Clement Chitja, head of collective bargaining, said. “We want a deal of 9 percent in one year,” Chitja told Reuters, adding that employer associations were offering less and looking for multi-year agreements.

The work stoppage could further damage the economy, which is forecast by the central bank to remain stagnant this year after expanding 1.3 percent in 2015. Africa’s most industrialised economy is a net importer of refined petroleum products and a prolonged strike could lead to shortages ahead of municipal elections in August.

Shell and BP jointly operate South Africa’s largest refinery, the 190,000 barrel a day Sapref plant along the east coast, with Chevron, Sasol and PetroSA also running refineries.

South Africa’s Talk Radio 702 reported Tuesday that more than 15,000 employees in the country’s petroleum sector are expected to go on strike this week after wage talks with employers failed.

The radio said the Chemical, Energy, Paper, Printing, Wood and Allied Workers Union (CEPPWAWU) had said the workers will down tools from Thursday morning. CEPPWAWU spokesman could not be immediately reached for comment.

Demands for above-inflation pay rises also look set to aggravate the central bank’s big dilemma of how to keep a lid on inflation – usually by raising interest rates – without snuffing out already slow economic growth. South

Africa’s annual inflation stood at 6.3 percent in June.

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