Commuters stranded as bus drivers strike

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Copy of ST_vaya0 (41001684) THE STAR Rea Vaya buses parked at the bus depot in Meadowlands, Soweto. Photo: Dumisani Sibeko

Johannesburg - Strike action and taxi association fighting left commuters stranded across Joburg on Monday morning.

The Rea Vaya bus services ground to a halt at about 6am despite assurances from the union that the strike would only kick off at 8.30am.

Windsor resident Linda Brown said her normal Beyers Naudé 6am bus did not arrive, and nor did the following scheduled one.

The bus strike is not over salaries, but about shifts.

Dumisani Mntambo, head of strategy and transformation at Piotrans, the bus operating company, said drivers were insisting that the senior ones should be able to select the shifts they wanted to drive.

“However, this is not possible because we are a new company which is only four years old and 98 percent of our drivers have been with us since the start. We therefore cannot have this huge majority trying to pick shifts. The remaining 2 percent have only been there a few months shorter than the others, so it becomes unfair, and should not be the reason for a strike,” he said.

Another issue is that drivers are demanding to be able to “move” between the different Rea Vaya operating companies.

However, Mntambo said: “Each phase has its own, independent bus company and owners, so we cannot authorise such movement. All we can do is give them access to talk to the other employers.”

The unions met with Piotrans until 9pm last night. Mntambo said a possible agreement may have been found. “We should hear back from them this morning.”

The city has apologised to commuters for the disruption. It said Piotrans was continuing to do all it could to resolve the strike as soon as possible. The city will provide regular feedback through the media, its website, Facebook and Twitter.

Meanwhile, two Soweto taxi associations are fighting over routes, which has added to the disruption of services.

Gauteng traffic police spokes-man Obed Sibasa said the dispute between the Meadowlands, Diepkloof North association (MDN) and the Baragwanath, Meadowlands Taxi Association (BMTA) led to the murder of MDN owner Mzayifani Mpongose. That prompted MDN drivers to embark on the strike. MDN drivers decided to end the strike on Sunday, said Sibasa.

The Transport Department is today holding a meeting which will include taxi operators and community structures to resolve the tension between the two associations.

The Star

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