File image: Minister of Transport, Blade Nzimande. (IOL).

CAPE TOWN - The South African Transport and Allied Worker’s Union (SATAWU) has called on Transport Minister Blade Nzimande to intervene in the ongoing national bus strike that has affected thousands of individuals. 

Bus drivers, led by SATAWU have embarked on a national bus strike on April 18, following demands for a 12% increase in wages. 

Workers initiated the strike, following a 30 day cooling off period after wage negotiations reached a deadlock last month. 

“The purpose of this strike is to demand a living wage and achieve decent working conditions and in return, we want to be able to deliver quality bus transportation services. We, therefore, call on all progressive communities and all people who will negatively be affected by this strike to fully support the strike”, said the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) on April 17. 

However, the halt of bus operations has led to great inconvenience for thousands of individuals as bus drivers display their dissatisfaction with their current wage. 

Now, SATAWU and affiliate unions such as (NUMSA), Transport and Allied Workers Union of SA (TAWUSA), Transport and Omnibus Workers’ Union (TOWU) and Tirisano Transport Workers Union (TASWU) are calling on transport minister, Blade Nzimande, to intervene in the current impasse in the bus sector wage negotiations. 

When asked whether a wage increase settlement can be reached, SATAWU said that they do believe a settlement can be reached. 

SATAWU said that while bus drivers are striking, their future is not at stake as it is a protected strike. Also, that by staying on strike longer they are attempting to secure a higher wage increase so they can be able to etch out a better living for their families. Think of it as short-term loss for long-term gain, said SATAWU. 

SATAWU added that their demand has since come down to 9% across the board for the first year and 8.5% for the second year. 

“Our demand has since come down to 9% across the board for the first year and 8.5% for the second year. However, considering how low wages are in this sector and the long hours that bus drivers work (about 17 hours a day), a 12% wage hike would not be unreasonable”, said SATAWU. 

Business Report asked SATAWU why they believe Nzimande will be able to resolve the wage negotiation. 

“The bus industry is a key portfolio within his ministry and given thousands of commuters have been left stranded by the strike, it is his responsibility to ensure that the stalemate is resolved as soon as possible”. 

“Minister Nzimande’s department is responsible for paying subsidies to bus companies, he holds the industry purse strings, he can withhold payment if he decides – he thereforehas critical leverage”, added SATAWU. 

SATAWU said that they are negotiating with employer associations within the South African Road Passenger Bargaining Council. 

“We are currently asking for a 9% wage increase for Year 1 and 8.5% for Year 2”. 

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