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Johannesburg – The looming strike action by the bus sector is not only about wages but better working conditions and transformation, said the SA Transport Workers Union (Satawu).

The union said payment of a second driver for long distance travel and what specifies a night shift was also in dispute.

"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 that are already stipulated in the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA), citing the current main collective agreement as justification," the union said.

"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.

Labour wants the spread over to be 12 hours a day while employers insists it should be 14 hours.

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"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." The union added that employers refuse to pay a second driver from the commencement of a trip.

"Employers are refusing to pay the relief driver from the start of the trip. Instead they insist that if a driver’s “foot is not on the pedal”, the said driver’s shift has not started. Unions want both drivers and support staff to be paid from start to finish of the trip."

Satawu said it approached the Labour Court last year to seek relief on the second driver issue and awaited judgement. Talks between unions and bus companies deadlocked at the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA).

A national strike at bus companies such as Putco, Rea Vaya, Great North Transport and Autopax would see commuters stranded without transport during the Easter holidays. The strike action would start this week.

Unions are seeking a 12 percent increase while employers offered 7.5 percent.

AFRICAN NEWS AGENCY