South African filling stations are running dry as a strike over pay by petroleum industry workers enters its fifth day.
Cars formed long queues waiting at the pumps that had fuel as shortages hit more than 200 petrol stations in Gauteng province, the nation's economic hub, and at least 70 in KwaZulu-Natal, the Johannesburg-based Fuel Retailers' Association said yesterday.
"As of yesterday the situation is really bad," Reggie Sibiya, the association's chief executive officer, said. "This morning we're getting email reports quick and fast [of more shortages]," he said.
The Chemical, Energy, Paper, Printing, Wood and Allied Workers' Union and the General Industries Workers' Union of South Africa started striking after employers responded to demands for raises of as much as 13 per cent with an offer of between 4 per cent and 7 per cent.
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Workers are pushing for wage increases that are more than double the 4.6 per cent inflation rate, arguing that surging food and fuel costs are driving down living standards. Wage talks in the coal, gold and platinum industries have also stalled, and unions have warned that labour action is imminent.
Municipal workers may strike as soon as this week, state-owned South African Broadcasting reported.
Petroliam Nasional Bhd's Engen Ltd, South Africa's largest fuel retailer, said 170 of its stations were dry as of late on Thursday, while Royal Dutch Shell's unit said at least 50 of its 230 stations in Gauteng were out of some grades of fuel.
Shell, Sasol Ltd, PetroSA, Total SA, Chevron Corp, Engen and BP Plc operate refineries in the country with the capacity to process 692,000 barrels of fuel a day.
"We have not been able to fully recover from a delivery backlog in Gauteng, since many retail sites are experiencing considerably higher sales," Shell said in an e-mailed statement. "We are trying our level best to maintain fuel deliveries and meet the increased demand."
The South African Transport and Allied Workers Union said yesterday that 65,000 members of its road freight division may strike in support of the petroleum industry workers.
Road freight workers will "mobilise solidarity support if called upon, including marches and pickets, with the striking members" should their wage demands go unmet, the union said in an emailed statement.
Open-cast mines in South Africa may run short of diesel within a few days if the strike continues, the Chamber of Mines, an industry body, said yesterday.