Saftu has threatened a national shutdown should bus companies not heed striking workers' demands by the end of the week. Picture Cindy Waxa/ANA

Bloemfontein - The SA Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) has on Tuesday, threatened a national shutdown should bus companies not heed striking workers' demands by the end of the week.

Addressing Saftu's main May Day rally in Bloemfontein, its president Mac Chavalala said the companies were holding workers and commuters hostage.

"Saftu will not fold its arms and watch while you continue to exploit our people. We are giving you five days to respond positively to our demands, because we believe the workers' demands are reasonable," said Chavalala.

"Should you not respond accordingly, Saftu will mobilise for a solidarity strike very soon and bring this country to a standstill.....you should by now know what Saftu is capable of doing. We expect you to settle as in yesterday...our people are tired of being held hostage by your delaying tactics and arrogance."

The bus strike entered its third week on Monday, leaving thousands of commuters stranded across South Africa. 

Workers affiliated to the SA transport and Allied Workers' Union (Satawu); the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa); the Transport and Omnibus Workers Union (Towu); the Transport and Allied Workers Union of South Africa (Tawusa); and the Tirisano Transport and Services Workers Union downed tools demanding an initial 12 percent salary increase across the board, while employers offered seven percent. 

Other issues in negotiations included driver over-time and night shift allowances.

Negotiations deadlocked last week. Transport Minister Blade Nzimande and Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant's efforts to intervene and resolve the impasse drew a blank.

The bus companies tabled a revised nine percent offer, adding that the unions' 12 percent demand was not affordable.

African News Agency/ANA