Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency/ANA

Johannesburg - Bus companies say that if they agree to the demands of striking workers, they might have to increase their fares.

Bus drivers have been in a three-week-long no-work no-pay strike over salary increases. They are demanding a 9.5% salary hike, while the employers are offering a 9% salary increase from this month until March. This would be followed by an 8% hike from April 2019 to March 2020.

Speaking for the employers caucus, John Dammert said that if they buckled to the workers' demands, fares might have to increase, which would in turn disadvantage commuters.

“The people bearing the brunt and being inconvenienced are the passengers. They now have to take two to three trips to get to a destination instead of one trip.

Read: Passengers stranded as national #BusStrike revs towards third week

#BusStrike: Union warns of national shutdown

Parties in #BusStrike still 'far apart' - unions

“Ultimately, the low-income commuters will have to subsidise the cost, and that is unacceptable. Bus drivers have been getting good increases in the past 10 years and they earn well; comparable to teachers and nurses,” Dammert noted.

Commuters would have to make up the shortfall if the fares rose. “We would have to recover money from fares.

"Labour really need to come to their senses. Commuters cannot bear the burden of this cost escalation. Labour's demands must be in sync with the economic realities of the country,” Dammert said.

The SA Transport and Allied Workers' Union's Zanele Sabela said Dammert's threats of bus fare increases were unreasonable because companies received subsidies from the government annually.

“They have been receiving subsidies consistent with inflation increases, and they have on average increased bus fares by 7%. These people are making a profit.

“What we are asking for isn’t unreasonable. Bus drivers do not have medical aid, pension and provident funds, while the average bus driver earns R6900. We are not asking for much,” Sabela said.

Both Sabela and Dammert said commuters would not forfeit the monthly and weekly bus tickets purchased before the strike.

After talks broke down last week, the parties were expected to meet again at the CCMA this week.

Transport Minister Blade Nzimande and Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant have failed to resolve the impasse.

Said Sabela: “The unions met and decided to write a letter to the bargaining council asking to continue the negotiations.”

The Star