After lengthy discussions and efforts to reach an amicable solution and a progressive way forward floundered, the unions were given permission to hold a strike on Friday.
They will stage a protest march on the day, which the unions have labelled “a national day of protest”.
The protest action will be carried out across the country, with protesters in Pretoria converging at the intersection of Park and Burnett street from 10am.
It is against “extremely poor and dangerous Metrorail passenger train services” that continue to violate all health and safety provisions, according the unions.
They are also unhappy about the acts of arson and endless fatal accidents that have left many families traumatised.
Other complaints include replacing old, broken or stolen infrastructure and equipment, such as railway tracks, signalling equipment and unsafe and outdated train sets, and to bring back a well resourced railway police.
In addition, the unions want the Department of Transport, Prasa and the Railway Safety Regulator to take immediate remedial action, including replacing old, broken or stolen infrastructure, and unsafe and outdated train sets.
Untu has accused the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) of resorting to intimidation tactics ahead of protest action.
General secretary Steve Harris said they received letters that were circulated by employee relations managers at Prasa.
In the letter, employees were asked to indicate whether they would participate in the national protest action or not.
The unions have notified the National Economic Development and Labour Council of the planned protest action.
They also successfully applied to various law enforcement authorities to approve the routes planned for marchers in Cape Town, Durban, Joburg and Pretoria.
The unions must give employers 48 hours notice of the national protest action.
Prasa spokesperson Nana Zenani said: “We will ensure that the necessary contingency plans are in place to ensure that the protest action does not negatively affect the operations of the business, in particular, the movement of passengers.
“We respect the constitutional right of any person(s) or organisation to participate in such protest actions.”