Johannesburg - Thousands of Joburg commuters were left stranded on Monday morning when Metrobus drivers dug in their heels and continued with their strike action.
This is as bus operators and the City of Joburg’s Metrobus management battle to reach an agreement over workers’ pay demands.
Metrobus general manager Ranti Mahlabana confirmed that drivers had not shown up for the morning shift and referred to their strike action as illegal.
“This morning's shift will certainly be affected by this illegal strike,” he said.
“It does appear that this is a continuation of an illegal strike that started on Friday afternoon,” he added.
On Friday, Metrobus advised passengers to find other means of transport as striking workers blocked off Enoch Sontonga Avenue in Braamfontein.
On Monday, Metrobus once again apologised to commuters, insisting it was doing all it could to rectify the situation.
“We will make all efforts to try and ensure that the services are returned to normality as a matter of urgency,” he said.
On Monday morning when The Star visited Gandhi Square, a major bus transport hub in the Joburg CBD, there were people still lining up for buses despite the drivers going on strike.
Many of the commuters said these disruptions to the Metrobus service caused them major inconvenience and had financial implications as they were being forced to find other means of transport.
Bonny Masipa commutes from the Joburg CBD to Rosebank daily.
“I have a bus tag that I filled up for the month and these strikes are really putting me off budget. I have to spend more money on transport now.”
These sentiments were echoed by a stranded Fernando Aron.
“I am stuck here, I don’t know where to get taxis to work and I really don’t want to get into trouble with my boss. I haven’t even called him to tell him that I am running late,” he told The Star.
Commuters also took to social media to express their frustration.
Twitter user known as @thandoilogy tweeted: "Please advise when this will be over, I did not pay over R700 just so I can use alternative transport!!!! #Metrobus".
Joburg Metrobuses ferry about 90 000 commuters every weekday on 229 routes.
Meanwhile, thousands more commuters in the province could be out in the cold and scrambling to find a way to get to their various locations this week if Gautrain employees also go on strike.
This as striking workers, affiliated to the United National Transport Union (UNTU), battle to come to an agreement over salary discrepancies.
Their fate could be decided today as union leaders and the Bombela Operating Company (BOC), which represents Gautrain, head to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) in a bid to reach a consensus.
Monday’s negotiations come after failed negotiations at the CCMA last week.
UNTU is demanding a 15 percent pay hike for the 2016/17 period, but Bombela is only offering a 3 percent increase.
Union secretary-general Steve Harris insisted that a pay hike was necessary as employees were struggling to cope with the current financial crisis in the country which had been exacerbated by the worst drought in more than 100 years.
“The gap had narrowed to a 9 percent versus 7 percent divide when negotiations deadlocked causing UNTU to declare a dispute,” he said.
Harris said it was a worker’s constitutional right in terms of the Labour Relations Act to embark on a legal strike and they could not be blamed if Gautrain commuters were stranded as a result of the demonstration.
Bombela said last week that it was “disappointed that the matter had reached the CCMA as the company had been open to negotiations over the salary dispute.
Spokeswoman Kesagee Nayager argued that employees’ pay increases were on average “competitive and above the industry norm”.
She said Bombela would remain open to an amicable outcome with workers and that it would try its best to ensure that disruptions to Gautrain services were kept to a minimum should strike action prevail.
The Star and ANA