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Union threatens national Easter bus strike over wage dispute

Buses parked at the Durban beachfront. File Picture

Buses parked at the Durban beachfront. File Picture

Published Apr 7, 2022

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DURBAN - THE National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) says a national bus strike is looming that would affect long- and short-distance travel across all provinces just ahead of the Easter weekend.

Numsa is demanding a 10% wage increase across the board.

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But in a joint statement the SA Bus Employers’ Association and the Commuter Bus Employers’ Organisation said that the current demands represent almost a 35% employee cost increase which was unaffordable in an industry already facing many challenges.

Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim said all provinces would be affected by the bus strike if it does take place and that workers in the sector suffered terribly through the lockdown.

“Employers have made only one offer and that is a 2.5% increase, and that measly offer has conditions attached. It is applicable to wages only, and not to any allowances or benefits. They want workers to agree to another year without any increase in their allowances. They also want workers to drop the demand for paid family responsibility leave.”

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Jim added that they had opened wage talks demanding that the lowest paid worker, who is earning R7 800 must be moved up to R12 000 per month.

“We have compromised and since the dispute was lodged, we changed our position and now we are demanding a 10% wage increase across the board. That is approximately a R780 increase for the lowest paid.

“We do not think this is asking for a lot given the major sacrifices which workers made for the last two years in order to cushion the industry.”

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Jim said should their demands not be met they had the right to give 48 hours’ notice for a national strike after a mandatory cooling off period set by the bargaining council. That period ends on April 13.

“It is therefore likely that the strike will begin just before the Easter long weekend. Numsa is the majority union in the bus passenger sector and if a national strike takes place in the industry it means companies like Putco, Golden Arrows, Autopax, Greyhound, Mega Bus and Coach, Gauteng Coaches, Great North Transport, Buscor and many more will be affected directly.”

The South African Bus Employers’ Association and the Commuter Bus Employers’ Organisation in their joint statement said that they have been involved in annual wage negotiations with Numsa, SA Transport and Allied Workers’ Union and the Transport and Allied Workers’ Union of SA since January.

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The organisations said they had been unable to reach an agreement on items brought to the negotiation table.

“On March 14, 2022, the commissioner issued a certificate of non-resolution and in terms of the South African Road Passenger Bargaining Council constitution, a 30-day cooling off period commenced.”

The organisations said that the issues were primarily the across-theboard wage increases, the introduction of industry health care, duration of the agreement and certain allowances as stated in the main collective agreement.

“The passenger transport industry has been facing significant challenges in the past few years. The impact of Covid-19 on operations, increasing unemployment and poor economic conditions has reduced passenger numbers and in addition, rising costs have had a negative impact on the industry. Significant job losses have already taken place with employee numbers reducing from 24 000 in 2020 to 15 000 in 2022.”

They added that labour is currently demanding an annual increase of 11% for one year, while employers are offering 3% increase per year for a 3-year period.

“Labour is demanding that local and cross border subsistence and travel allowance, tool allowance, night shift allowance and dual driver allowance be increased by 11% while employers have offered 2.5% for each year of a three-year agreement.”

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