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South African Port, Rail Workers Go On Strike

Thousands of South African transport workers went on strike Monday, an action that could cripple port, freight rail, and pipeline operations across the country.

A spokesperson for the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union, Jane Barrett, said Sunday that up to 18,000 members will participate in the job action.

The union called the strike after rejecting a proposed pay raise by the state-owned ports and rail company, Transnet.

The union is demanding a 15 percent wage increase. Transnet is offering 11 percent.

Another union, the United Transport and Allied Trade Union, said its leadership decided not to strike for two days while its 22,000 members consider Transnet's revised offer.

That union reports its members were being intimidated as they tried to come to work Monday.

The two unions represent 85 percent of Transnet's 50,000 employees.

The unions have said public transportation will not be affected by the strike. However, a new commuter bus service in Joahnnesburg was not operating Monday because of what its operator called a "union recognition dispute." It was not clear if the dispute was related to the transport workers' strike.

The strike could halt exports of coal, fruit and an ore used in the manufacture of stainless steel, as well as disrupt fuel distribution and shipping.

Transnet officials say they have contingency plans are in place and that the company is working with police to ensure the safety of non-striking workers as well as its assets.

The strike comes a month before South Africa hosts football's World Cup.