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Strike over procurement discrepancies continues at Vopak

Vopak is the world's largest independent tank storage service provider, specialising in the storage and handling of bulk liquid chemicals and operates 80 terminals with a storage capacity of 25,6 million cubic metres in 31 countries, including the newly acquired terminal in Jameson Park.

Workers have downed tools and tension is now at a breaking point for discouraged, unemployed residents who have been knocking at the door of Vopak (the petroleum terminal at Jameson Park) for jobs since the start of the year.

Vopak is the world’s largest independent tank storage service provider, specialising in the storage and handling of bulk liquid chemicals and operates 80 terminals with a storage capacity of 25,6 million cubic metres in 31 countries, including the newly acquired terminal in Jameson Park.

The South African government adopted a National Infrastructure Plan in 2012 that intends to strengthen the delivery of basic services and to transform the economic landscape of the country, while creating a significant number of new jobs. The plan was also set to support the integration of African economies.

However, according to the general secretary of the Lesedi Black Business Forum (LBBF) Victor Lobi, locals are often overseen and despite the fact that they engaged in numerous negotiations with the site contractor to secure positions for skilled and semi-skilled workers from the greater Lesedi area, there are still discrepancies that need to be addressed.
Reatile has partnered with Vopak in 2015 to develop a number of new petroleum storage facilities across the country. This includes the terminal in Jameson Park adjacent to the end point of the Transnet multi-purpose fuel pipeline from Durban. Chemic Tech has awarded Muteo Construction Group the civil engineering and earthworks contract for a new fuel-terminal project. Chemic Tech is the engineering, procurement, construction and management (EPCM) contractor in the oil and gas industry, for main client Vopak, a Netherlands multinational that has built many similar fuel-storage facilities in South Africa.

Operations director of Muteo Construction Group’s Civils Division – Junithan Moodley told Engineering News earlier this year that the company is undertaking the project in conjunction with joint venture partner M3 and added that the 18-month contract is already in phase one of three.

While the specialised nature of the project has complicated the procurement of materials, services, and skills from the local community, Moodley highlighted that the main goal is to “assist black-owned businesses wherever we can” and said that additional training opportunities will be provided once the contract has been completed, and the local workforce is demobilised.

“From our recent engagement with the Lesedi Black Business Forum, and directly with the local community, we are assured that there are sufficient skills in the region to take on any work that may arise from the municipality,” Moodley told Engineering News.

The current procurement requirement is that 70% of the workforce be derived from the local community for any projects undertaken.

“A small percentage of local people have been employed by this project, which is now in its second phase” Lobi denied Moodley’s statement.

“The issue we have is that Chemic-Tech has imported around 120 employees from India and Dubai to work on site whereas during a meeting held with them in July, they agreed to employ 30 people from the local community between 15 July and 11 August and another 30 people from 11 August to 11 September. The ratio is supposed to be 70/30, meaning 70% of the workforce should be derived from the local community. At present, more and more foreigners are being employed by Chemic Tech and very little from the local community.”
Lobi further claims that local suppliers (SMMEs) are also overseen in the project as Chemic Tech has enlisted the services of several suppliers from outside the Lesedi area.

“Workers have downed tools and protest action will continue until our demands are met,” Lobi said in conclusion.

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