Bus dri­vers’ stri­ke ta­kes its toll

George Herald - - News - My­ron Ra­bi­no­witz

Ma­ny GO GE­OR­GE bus dri­vers who ha­ve joi­ned the na­ti­o­nal pay stri­ke for the last three weeks, lay the bla­me for the pro­trac­ted stri­ke at go­vern­ment’s door.

Ear­lier in­ter­ven­ti­ons by both Trans­port Mi­nis­ter Bla­de N­zi­man­de and La­bour Mi­nis­ter Mild­red O­lip­hant ha­ve fai­led, but dri­vers say it seems as if go­vern­ment isn't se­ri­ous a­bout in­ter­ve­ning.

The De­part­ment of Trans­port is re­spon­si­ble for the sub­si­dies paid to bus com­pa­nies, and em­ploy­ees in the sec­tor be­lie­ve the de­part­ment the­re­fo­re has clout with the em­ploy­ers.

On Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon ne­go­ti­a­ti­ons we­re still de­ad­loc­ked as bus dri­vers re­jected the la­test of­fer of an 8,75% in­cre­a­se for t­his y­e­ar and 8,25% for next y­e­ar. U­ni­ons ma­de a coun­ter-de­mand of 9% for 2018 and 8% in 2019.

Traf­fic dis­rup­ted

On Mon­day mor­ning, 7 May, frus­tra­ted Pa­calts­dorp re­si­dents we­re stuck in traf­fic jams as stri­king bus dri­vers pro­tes­ted in Be­ach Ro­ad.

Dri­vers and sup­port staff em­bar­ked on an il­le­gal march du­ring the mor­ning traf­fic from Pa­calts­dorp to the GO GE­OR­GE bus de­pot in York S­treet, se­ver­e­ly im­pacting traf­fic flow. The dri­vers are up­set that the Ge­or­ge traf­fic de­part­ment is not en­for­cing the taxi per­mits that re­strict tax­is to spe­ci­fic rou­tes. The tax­is are cur­rent­ly o­pe­ra­ting on all the bus rou­tes - il­le­gal­ly whi­le the bus ser­vi­ce re­mains sus­pen­ded.

De­part­ment in­va­ded

Pro­tes­ting GO GE­OR­GE and A­fri­can Ex­press bus dri­vers al­so occu­pied the Ge­or­ge Traf­fic De­part­ment in Pa­calts­dorp on F­ri­day 4 May, de­man­ding to meet with Do­no­van Sap­toe, the Ge­or­ge traf­fic chief. T­he­re was no da­ma­ge to pro­per­ty, but the of­fi­ce was clo­sed as a pre­cau­ti­o­na­ry me­a­su­re at lunchti­me.

Ger­rit Wil­lem­se, Sout­hern Ca­pe coor­di­na­tor of the Na­ti­o­nal U­ni­on of Me­tal­wor­kers of South A­fri­ca (Num­sa), told the Ge­or­ge He­rald that the stri­kers de­mand that rou­te per­mits be en­for­ced. Wil­lem­se said a meet­ing be­t­ween the u­ni­on and its Sout­hern

Ca­pe mem­bers was plan­ned for y­e­ster­day, Wed­nes­day 9 May, to re­flect on the stri­ke. "We want to bre­ak the stale­ma­te as it has been going on for too long." At the ti­me of going to print the Ge­or­ge He­rald was still a­wai­ting a com­mu­ni­que from the u­ni­on. Me­an­w­hi­le GO GE­OR­GE bus dri­ver and Num­sa shop ste­ward Ralph S­tof­fels ad­mits that the pro­trac­ted no-work-no-pay stri­ke is ta­king its toll. "I was ho­ping that the stri­ke would be o­ver in two to three days. I want to a­po­lo­gi­se to the pu­blic, but we ha­ve to stand up for our rig­hts."

'Al­ter­na­ti­ve' trans­port

C­han­tel Ed­wards-K­lo­se, spo­kes­per­son for the Ge­or­ge Mu­ni­ci­pa­li­ty, con­fir­med that the mu­ni­ci­pa­li­ty has been in dis­cus­si­ons with the re­le­vant ro­le play­ers re­gar­ding the il­le­gal trans­port. "The mu­ni­ci­pa­li­ty ur­ges all com­mu­ters to ma­ke al­ter­na­ti­ve tra­vel ar­ran­ge­ments for the du­ra­ti­on of the stri­ke. Traf­fic con­ge­s­ti­on can be ex­pected and the pu­blic is ur­ged to exe­r­ci­se pa­tien­ce."

She said that sin­ce the start of the stri­ke on T­hurs­day 19 A­pril, "the Ge­or­ge Traf­fic De­part­ment has con­ti­nu­ed to pa­trol and en­for­ce a­gainst any il­le­gal acti­vi­ty as per their man­da­te." She ad­ded that the stri­ke has se­ver­e­ly dis­ad­van­ta­ged com­mu­ters in Ge­or­ge and the mu­ni­ci­pa­li­ty re­mains ho­pe­ful that ne­go­ti­a­ti­ons will be re­sol­ved speedi­ly.

Traf­fic cops ta­ke strain

We­stern Ca­pe Traf­fic Chief Ken­ny A­fri­ca said the stri­ke is cau­sing dif­fi­cul­ties for the law en­for­ce­ment sec­tor.

"The work lo­ad has in­cre­a­sed dra­ma­ti­cal­ly with the ad­di­ti­on of thou­sands of vehi­cles on the ro­ad."

In­de­pen­dent bus o­pe­ra­tor Pra­veen Singh of A­fri­can

Ex­press said the stri­ke is cos­ting him de­ar­ly as his com­pa­ny doe­sn't re­cei­ve a go­vern­ment sub­sidy.

"I a­po­lo­gi­se to all my cu­s­to­mers for the in­con­ve­nien­ce and es­pe­ci­al­ly to the le­ar­ners who are wri­ting ex­ams. The stri­ke is out of my hands. It is be­t­ween the fi­ve u­ni­ons and the in­du­stry as a w­ho­le."

Tax­is 'can't win'

An Un­ce­do taxi dri­ver, ta­king a bre­ak from his hectic sche­du­le, said, "T­his ti­me we are the good guys hel­ping the com­mu­ni­ty to get to work, yet we are still in the wrong. Taxi dri­vers just can't win."

See mo­re p­ho­tos and a vi­deo at www.ge­or­ge­he­rald.com Un­ce­do taxi dri­vers talk to law en­for­ce­ment of­fi­ci­als at the en­tran­ce to Pa­calts­dorp.

P­ho­tos: My­ron Ra­bi­no­witz

Traf­fic cha­os in Be­ach Ro­ad, Pa­calts­dorp.

The il­le­gal Num­sa march in York S­treet on Mon­day.

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