Labour min­is­ter, unions ‘end’ bus strike

CityPress - - Business - MSINDISI FENGU and LESETJA MALOPE lesetja.malope@city­

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.

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GO­ING NOWHERE SLOWLY na­tion­wide strike These com­muters in Khayelit­sha were left stranded this week as bus driv­ers went on a

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