Another bus strike could be on the cards if a request by several bus companies to be exempted from the new wage deal is granted. Picture: David Ritchie/African News Agency (ANA)
Cape Town - Another bus strike could be on the cards if a request by several bus companies to be exempted from the new wage deal that unions and employers agreed to is granted.

Several bus companies including Golden Arrow have approached the South African Road Passenger Bargaining Council to be exempted. This means that they will not be obliged to pay the newly agreed wage increase of 9% in the first year and 8% the following year.

South African Transport and Allied Workers’ Union (Satawu) spokesperson Zanele Sabela said: “It’s really a shame that those three big bus companies have applied to be exempted."

It has emerged that the Putco bus company in Johannesburg has refused to pay the wage increase and bonuses despite having just finalised the large-scale retrenchment of 220 employees and abolishing 380 positions across company operations.

Sabela said: “The company claims it cannot afford to pay increased wages even though it has escalated commuter fares in the first quarter of this year and plans to do so again on July 1, bringing the total fare increase for this year alone to between 8% and 14%."

She said that bus drivers felt discouraged. “They are very disappointed about what’s been happening."

Transport Omnibus Workers' Union general secretary Tony Franks said their members were angry at the turn of events.

The nationwide bus strike started on April 18 and carried on for almost four weeks, forcing commuters to seek alternative transport. Golden Arrow’s John Dammert confirmed that they would be making submission to the Bargaining Council.

"Unfortunately I cannot divulge the details of what our submissions will be,” he said.

This comes just a week after the company announced that it would be raising its bus fares by 5% from today.

Economist Dawie Roodt said the request by bus companies was because of the struggling economy.

“Businesses are struggling and going through a tough time,” he said.

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Cape Argus