A Gautrain arrives at the Rosebank station. Photo: Bongiwe Mchunu

Johannesburg - Gautrain train drivers and conductors are ready to embark on a strike because of what they claim are unfair working conditions.

Utatu-Sarhwu (South African Railways and Harbours Workers Union) claims there are many problems regarding train drivers and conductors, including staff members not being allowed to use the trains to get to and from work, being made to work long hours and being refused permission to use lifts if the escalators are not working.

The Sandton Gautrain station is 1km deep and staff have to walk up and down the stairs when the escalators are out of order.

Union spokesman Neels Haasbroek said there was great unhappiness among the staff members.

Among the other problems he said they faced are:

* They claim they are made to sign key performance indicators every three months, but don’t get any money when they achieve them, while management does.

* They work eight days in a row, resulting in drivers being fatigued while still having to drive trains.

* Conditions at Park station are not safe because there is still a lot of dust from construction.

* There are electricity boxes in their rest rooms.

* Drivers’ seats are not comfortable, causing kidney problems and backache.

* They are not allowed to use trains when they are off duty, or even get discounts, while their Metrorail counterparts use the trains for free and get discounts for their friends and family.

* The human resources executive has allegedly been campaigning for employees to resign from the union, promising an 8 percent increase to prevent staff from going on strike.

* Some employees have been given final written warnings for discussing the alleged appalling working conditions.

* Train drivers’ entry-level salary is R13 500, and conductors get R6 500, while the Metrorail entry-level pay is R21 000 and R15 000.

Bombela Operating Company spokesman Errol Braithwaite said the company was currently engaged in wage negotiations with its staff through the relevant unions.

“These are at a sensitive stage and being conducted through the proper channels. It would be detrimental to these negotiations to respond to disingenuous allegations from anonymous persons in the media.

“The company remains fully compliant with labour, health and safety regulations and is committed to upholding the welfare of its staff and interests of customers.”

The Star