File picture: Bongani Shilulbane/African News Agency (ANA)
Cape Town – Hundreds of thousands of commuters will be left scrambling to find alternative transport on Friday as rail workers embark on a national strike.

The Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa) said it was implementing a reduced schedule, which would have a “major impact” on Metrorail commuters.

United National Transport Union (Untu) said the industrial action was to force the government to turn the rail service around.

Prasa spokesperson Nana Zenani said a Saturday and Sunday service timetable would be implemented.

“Prasa recognises the mass action today is not a labour strike against Prasa, but a Fedusa-led mass action against government along with its affiliated union Untu as the majority union at Prasa.

“As the mass action could have a major impact on the service, Prasa is planning to run a reduced service in the form of a Saturday or Sunday service time table,” Zenani said.

Untu spokesperson Sonja Carstens yesterday said as employees prepared for the strike, its members were intimidated.

“Managers of Prasa intimidated members of Untu by calling them into an office one-by-one to hear if they will participate today.

“This comes after the newly appointed Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula misled the media and created havoc among trains crews and train control officers when he announced that ‘critical staff’ won’t be participating,” said Carstens.

Untu general secretary Steve Harris wrote an urgent letter to Nkosinathi Sishi, acting chief group executive of Prasa, to ask for proof as to when employees of Prasa were declared “critical staff”.

“It is clear that the newly appointed minister has not been correctly informed by his advisers.

“The result of his misleading statement, however, has a devastating effect on our protest action as our members now believe they will be fired if they were to participate in the protest action,” said Harris.

Harris said they considered, “blatant intimidation tactics of Prasa coupled to the minister’s misleading press briefing as deliberate sabotage of a protest action aimed at creating awareness for Prasa’s inability to provide safe working conditions”.

Fedusa spokesperson Frank Nxumalo said the organisation would have members gather in Cape Town, Joburg, Durban and Pretoria.