Cape Town - The national bus strike, which is about to enter its third week, has already cost the Western Cape economy as much as R10 million.
And embattled commuters have been dealt another blow with Metrorail’s announcement that they will no longer be able to use their bus tickets on the trains.
Efficient Group chief economist Dawie Roodt said although there was no way to calculate exactly what the cost to the economy has been, his estimate was the result of examining the extra costs to consumers, combined with the number of working hours lost.
The strike which began on April 19, has forced more than 210 000 commuters to find alternative means of getting to and from work.
While the effects of the strike have been minimised by what he called the “strike fitness” of South Africans – strikes have become a “regular” part of the lives of South Africans, who have learnt to cope better with them – Roodt said a protracted strike would nevertheless have a major impact on the economy.
Unions, led by the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu), are demanding an 18 percent increase while employers are offering an 8 percent increase across the board for workers earning R23.50 an hour or less, and 7.5 percent for those earning more.
Unions lowered their demand to 13 percent, but reverted back to their original 18 percent demand after talks deadlocked earlier this week.
Vincent Masoga, Satawu national spokesman, said the union may now call on train operators to join the strike next week.
Golden Arrow spokeswoman Bronwen Dyke said that with the exception of student term bus cards, “commuters will no longer be able to use bus tickets to travel by train”.
Anyone with rides still available on their bus tickets would be reimbursed once the strike was resolved, she said.
Last week Cape Town media manager Kylie Hatton said escalating intimidation and threats prompted many MyCiTi drivers to stay off work. The service was suspended, leaving a further 13 000 commuters to find alternative transport. The city said MyCiTi services would resume once it was safe to do so.
“For the safety of our staff and passengers, the service was suspended,” Hatton said.
Meanwhile, a quick poll by the Cape Chamber of Commerce has revealed that commuters continue to struggle.
Of 15 companies polled, from engineering firms to manufacturing companies, eight made up for lost productivity by additional means, like working over weekends.
“Most of the workers have come to work, albeit some of them late. What’s clear is that workers cannot afford to miss even a single day’s work. But the additional cost of transport means they take even less money home,” the poll determined.
Michael Bagraim, chairman of the chamber’s human capital portfolio committee, said commuters had also approached bosses, banks and loan sharks in a bid to secure transport.
“The workers (other than the drivers themselves), who played no part in the strike, are the ones who will take the most pain,” said Bagraim.