Labour minister, unions ‘end’ bus strike
Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant has struck a deal with the majority of trade unions representing the country’s bus companies, in a move which her department claims will end the crippling national bus strike.
Three unions – the SA Transport and Allied Workers’ Union (Satawu), the Public Allied Workers’ Union and the Transport and Omnibus Workers’ Union – brokered the deal with Oliphant on Friday.
Sithembele Tshwete, Oliphant’s spokesperson, said parties agreed to a 9% wage increase.
“The majority of unions signed the deal. It means an end to the strike. The minister took it upon herself to convene the meeting to find a solution,” he said.
Tshwete said other issues relating to the conditions of service of employees would be attended to in due course.
Gary Wilson, general secretary of the SA Road Passenger Bargaining Council, said two unions had yet to sign the deal – namely, the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa), which demanded a 15% pay hike, and the Transport and Services Workers’ Union, which also wanted a double-digit increase.
“According to the bargaining council’s constitution, if the majority signs, the strike is called off,” said Wilson. “The constitution is binding.” However, Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim said the union would continue with the strike action until a mandate was given by members to suspend it.
Consultations in general meetings were scheduled to be held yesterday across the country, Jim said.
The bus drivers’ strike, which started on Wednesday, led to commuters failing to show up for work and taxi ranks being congested.
It resulted from a deadlock at the bargaining council between five unions, led by Satawu, which represents more than 23 000 workers.
Satawu spokesperson Zanele Sabela said the union had also requested Oliphant to intervene in the negotiations.
“Money is not the only issue at stake. Labour was clear from the beginning that these talks were aimed at transforming the industry for the better. But employers have stubbornly refused to relent on demands already stipulated in the Basic Conditions of Employment Act,” she said.
According to Satawu, which is the majority union in the sector, it initially demanded a 12% across-the-board increase, while employers offered 7.5%.
Ernest Mahlaule, president of the Johannesburg Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the chamber had received many complaints from businesses regarding high levels of absenteeism, which had a direct effect on productivity.
Mahlaule said though the chamber did not foresee any layoffs yet, businesses would experience a significant drop in turnover.
“Unless the strike carries on for longer, this is a shortterm inconvenience – but it is definitely a serious one.”
Alan Mukoki, CEO of the SA Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said its members had also complained about employees arriving at work late or not at all.
“Businesses are experiencing low levels of productivity. Workers do not have much disposable income, so eventually, costs will increase and that will affect inflation,” he said.
Janine Myburgh, president of the Cape chamber, said the effect had been minimised by the school recess period.
“So far, the effect of the bus strike has been limited, probably because it has come during school holidays, when many people are away and there are fewer cars on the roads. It has been hard on train commuters, who have had to cope with the crushing overload.”
Meanwhile, the SA National Taxi Council (Santaco) said the number of commuters who had flooded taxi ranks during the strike had tripled.
Santaco spokesperson Thabiso Molelekwa said the industry was the most demand-responsive in the country, and the increased number of commuters, though unexpected, had not proven to be a major challenge.
He said the fact that taxis did not have a dedicated lane in cities with the bus rapid transit system – except in Durban, where taxis and buses shared lanes in some parts – might have proved a challenge in transporting commuters faster.
Do you think the bus strike has permanently ended?
SMS us on 35697 using the keyword STRIKE and tell us what you think. Please include your name and province. SMSes cost R1.50
GOING NOWHERE SLOWLY nationwide strike These commuters in Khayelitsha were left stranded this week as bus drivers went on a