Pretoria - Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant has urged parties in the chemical, metal and engineering sectors to reach an agreement to end the ongoing strike.
"The industry is critical to the economy of the country and prolonged industrial action is certainly not in the public interest, hence the appeal that the parties must endeavour to find a solution," she said on Thursday.
The minister said while the workers have the right to strike where settlements are not achievable, violent behaviour is not acceptable.
"It undermines the system of collective bargaining in this country and this violent behaviour serves only to bring legitimate negotiations into suspect. I, therefore, strongly appeal to trade unions and workers to conduct their strikes in a peaceful manner," said Oliphant.
Last week, the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa), Metal and Electrical Workers' Union (Mewusa), and the SA Equity Workers' Association (Saewa) embarked on a nationwide strike, with workers demanding pay increases of between 10 and 13 percent. Under Numsa's leadership, thousands of engineering workers are also demanding a ban on labour brokers.
On Monday, members of the Chemical, Energy, Paper, Printing, Wood and Allied Workers Union (Ceppwawu), the South African Chemical Workers' Union (Sacwu) and the General Industries Workers' Union of SA (Giwusa) - which has members in the glass, pharmaceutical chemical and fast-moving consumer goods, fibre and particle board industries - began protesting.
The strike has resulted in fuel shortages at some petrol stations.
"The Commission for Conciliation Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) has been involved in supporting parties through facilitation in some sectors and they remain available to assist where negotiators experience difficulty, they are urged to consider the services of the CCMA," said the minister.
As of yesterday, over 100 petrol stations in Gauteng and 50 in KwaZulu-Natal have run out of fuel, said the Fuel Retailers' Association (FRA). The Department of Energy said it was engaging all relevant departments on the matter.
"The department is continuously engaging all the relevant departments with regards issues around the fuel strike. That is, the SAPS who are responsible for dealing with policing issues, and the Department of Labour regarding labour negotiation issues.
"In addition to these engagements, the department convenes a daily meeting with all the oil suppliers to monitor the situation," spokesperson Thandiwe Maimane said.