August 1, 2016 / 9:38 AM / 4 years ago

South African refineries operational despite strike, fuel supply stable

CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - Production at South Africa’s oil refineries has continued despite an indefinite strike by workers demanding higher wages, the petroleum association said on Monday, while fuel retailers urged motorists not to panic.

The Chevron Oil Refinery is seen in Cape Town, South Africa, June 30, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

Around 15,000 members affiliated to Chemical, Energy, Paper, Printing, Wood and Allied Workers union (CEPPWAWU) launched the strike on Thursday, demanding a 9 percent wage hike and one-year deal, while employers were offering less.

“Refineries continue to produce,” South African Petroleum Industry Association executive director Avhapfani Tshifularo said.

Some parts of Gauteng province, the country’s commercial hub, which includes Johannesburg and the capital Pretoria, had faced some delays, he said.

Drivers ferrying fuel from depots to service stations were being threatened, he said, but did not give details.

Union officials were not available to comment.

Reggie Sibiya, chief executive officer at the Fuel Retailers Association, said mainly poorer areas were being affected by fuel delivery delays and disputed the claims of violence against the drivers.

“Oil companies don’t want to go deliver there and are using safety as an excuse. It’s not because there is no product,” he told Reuters.

Africa’s most industrialised economy, which holds local elections on Wednesday, is a net importer of refined petroleum products. The government said previously that fuel shortages could cost the economy around 1 billion rand ($72 million)a day.

A similar wage strike in 2011 that lasted almost three weeks saw petrol pumps run dry as panicked motorists filled up their vehicles. Sibiya urged motorists not to panic.

“There is no need for panicked buying. There is no crisis,” Sibiya said.

Chevron said on Monday operations at its 110,000 barrels a day Cape Town plant were continuing and measures were in place to minimise the strike’s impact.

At some service stations certain types of fuel were not available due to delivery problems, a Reuters witness said.

($1 = 13.8119 rand)

Reporting by Wendell Roelf; Editing by James Macharia

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