Bus drivers’ strike takes its toll
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.
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.
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."
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.
Traffic chaos in Beach Road, Pacaltsdorp.
The illegal Numsa march in York Street on Monday.