Pretoria - Many bus commuters in Tshwane were left stranded since Tuesday afternoon after Tshwane Bus Services drivers affiliated to the South African Municipal Union (Samwu) went on an unprotected strike due to disputes over overtime payments.
Commuters, who were forced to make alternative transport arrangements at short notice, took to social media to express their disappointment at the unreliable transport service by the metro.
Rethabile Pholo said buying a monthly bus ticket was just a waste of time and money because one, “won’t even finish a month using them (because) every week it’s a strike”.
A commuter from Olievenhoutbosch was concerned that on Tuesday afternoon children were kept at a police station because there were no buses to ferry them home after school.
“Why should they come in the morning to collect our kids knowing later they won’t fetch them? Now we are receiving calls from Laudium Police Station that we need to organise transport to fetch our kids, and we as parents are at work,” she said.
Commuters said they had not been notified in time about the strike to enable them to make prior arrangements.
“Why don’t they notify us in advance instead of saying find another means of transport after dropping us at our workplaces?” a commuter said.
Yesterday morning, bus drivers didn’t report for duty and it was unclear whether those doing afternoon shifts would resume work.
City spokesperson Lindela Mashigo said operations were suspended after bus drivers abandoned Tuesday afternoon’s shift.
The city issued a 48-hour ultimatum by which the drivers were expected to return to duty.
Mashigo said: “The ultimatum was sent to the Samwu regional office with the expectation that the worker’s union would direct its members to fulfil their work obligation. To this end, the city has not received any formal grievance from the bus drivers.”
He said the strike has affected a customer base getting services from 160 buses on weekdays.
“Since workers haven’t shown up for today’s (yesterday) morning shift, it is not yet clear if the afternoon shift will resume. Therefore, commuters are again urged to seek alternative transport arrangements,” he said.
He said the city deemed the abandoning of posts as an illegal action and intended to deal with the absconding employees through the municipality’s labour processes.
“As soon as there is an indication of the resumption of bus operations, the city will communicate accordingly,” he said.
Mashigo denounced acts of intimidation reported to the city by bus drivers who did not align themselves with the bus service disruptions.
He said Samwu affiliated bus drivers were alleged to be aggrieved about overtime payments and salary increases.
“The City apologises profusely to commuters who have been adversely affected by the strike and advises them to make alternative travel arrangements. Further developments will be communicated to the commuters in due course,” he said.
Samwu Gauteng provincial secretary Mpho Tladinyane, dismissed the assertion that workers downed tools because of salary increases, saying there were disputes on the implementation of overtime work and their remuneration.
“The overtime issues are part of the shift work,” he said.
The union said the management failed to consult with the unions before it drafted the work shift, which had become a point of contention.
The union said it was “counter-factual” that it was only Samwu members who embarked on an unprotected strike because Imatu affiliated drivers griped about the same issues.
The union also said there were complaints about occupational health and safety issues emanating from the fact that some toilets at Pretoria West bus depot were not working and without water.
“The first building on your left at Pretoria West depot has toilets. They are no longer working. Whereas on the management side the toilets are working,” the union said.