National bus strike enters day 2 after negotiations deadlock again
The nationwide bus strike that saw thousands stranded after Algoa Bus Company and GO GEORGE grounded their fleets entered a second day after talks between the National Union Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) and bus companies deadlocked again on Wednesday.
Representatives of the bus companies met with union representatives at the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) to try and find each other and prevent a protracted strike that has seen thousands resorting to other means of transport over this Easter weekend.
NUMSA said that the 9% offer was not one it could confidently take back to its members.
Three months of negotiations yield no breakthrough
Industry-wide wage talks kicked-off in late January and involved the country's 16 major bus companies, but reached a deadlock in the second phase of negotiations in March.
Hoping to find each other, labour and employer associations took part in a mediation process led by the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA).
However, the process did not produce an agreement. The CCMA then issued a certificate of non-resolution subject to a 30-day mandatory cooling-off period before unions could embark on a strike.
The 30-day stay expired on Saturday, 8 April.
While the employers are offering a 7.5% wage increase, workers, represented by NUMSA and the SA Transport and Allied Workers Union (SATAWU) as well as two other unions, want at least 12%.
"However, 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," said Zanele Sabela, SATAWU Media Officer.
"But employers have stubbornly refused to relent on demands that are already stipulated in the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA), citing the current Main Collective Agreement as justification. For instance, the agreement classifies night work as any work done between 8pm and 3am while the BCEA specifies work done between 6pm to 6am.
"Spread-over, where a driver reports for work for a three-hour morning shift, breaks for eight hours and then works a further five hours, is another factor that parties have failed to agree on."
Sabela said that workers want spread-over to be 12 hours a day while employers insist it should on 14 hours.
"What employers fail to recognise is that because no sleeping facilities are made available for drivers, when travelling time to and from work is factored in (an average hour each way) then what you have are sleep deprived drivers at the wheel. This is obviously a dangerous situation not only for bus commuters but for all road users.
"In addition, for long distance trips where two drivers relieve each other as fatigue sets in, employers are refusing to pay the relief driver from the start of the trip," she said.
"Instead they insist that if a driver’s 'foot' is not 'on the pedal', then said driver’s shift has not started. Unions want both drivers and support staff to be paid from start to finish of the trip."
Also affected are Putco, Golden Arrow, Mega Bus, Autopax and Rea Vaya buses among others, which ferry thousands of commuters daily in several major cities - including Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban. While long distance buses Greyhound and Citiliner are affected by the strike, the Intercape bus service confirmed that it was not.
Parliament concerned about bus strike
On Wednesday, the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Transport, Ms Dikeledi Magadzi, said she was concerned about the bus strike, just days before the Easter weekend.
“The national bus strike is set to inconvenience the country in proportions not witnessed before. A lot of people around this time are commuting by road to be with families. The stakes are high and all assistance, particularly from law enforcement agencies, is required so that the safety of road users is not compromised,” Magadzi said.
“The taxi industry, long- and short-distance, will be under a lot of pressure. Hence drivers should exercise caution and at all times stick to the rules of no overloading and no speeding.”
She called on law enforcement to be strict when policing permits and licences, as the bus strike could potentially be exploited by unscrupulous operators who will find it convenient to transport long-distance travellers in unroadworthy and uncertified vehicles.
Magadzi wished all people travelling on the roads a safe Easter weekend and said she hoped participants at the bargaining council will explore all possible avenues to limit the impact of the strike.
“Road fatalities in our country are unbelievably high and that should not continue,” she said.
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