Cosatu supports bus strike

By Drum Digital
23 April 2013

Cosatu expressed support on Tuesday for striking bus workers' demands for a pay rise as a nationwide bus strike continued.

"[We] wish the workers at the bus companies well during their strike and support them in their struggle for a living wage," the union federation's Western Cape provincial secretary Tony Ehrenreich said in a statement.

"Cosatu calls on Golden Arrow and other bus companies to pay decent wages and get a resolution to the strike."

The Congress of SA Trade Unions stated the strike was causing hardship for commuters and called for the dispute to be resolved as soon as possible.

It urged the City of Cape Town to provide buses to areas most affected, and for an expansion of train services to accommodate additional commuters.

The Federation of Unions of SA (Fedusa) said it had requested an urgent meeting with Gauteng transport MEC Ismail Vadi on Tuesday. This was to discuss several matters regarding the budget and financing of the Gautrain bus service operators Bombela and Mega Express, as well as other important strategic matters.

Fedusa asked for the meeting on behalf of its affiliate Utatu Sarwhu.

Utatu Sarwhu is the majority union at the two operators, representing approximately 80 percent of striking drivers.

"Mega Express drivers currently earn R6023 per month, and they are demanding an 18 percent pay increase which will add about R1100 to their basic rate of pay," Utatu Sarwhu deputy general secretary Pieter Greyling said in a statement.

"The drivers say that they will remain on strike until their demand is met. We hope that the meeting with the transport MEC will assist in facilitating a breakthrough."

Fedusa general secretary Dennis George said Fedusa fully supported Utatu Sarwhu in the matter, and would attend the meeting to break the current deadlock. The strike was harming South Africa's economy.

Talks between employers and unions were expected to take place on Wednesday at the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation, and Arbitration (CCMA).

Commuter Bus Employers' Organisation spokesman Barry Gie said it was initially hoped the CCMA meeting would start on Tuesday.

However, it was postponed as many delegates did not live in Johannesburg and needed more time to travel there. He said the employers' offer of a 6.5 percent wage increase remained in place.

Gie said that, given the pressures the industry faced, the SA Transport and Allied Workers' Union's (Satawu) demands were "just not possible".

Satawu announced the nationwide bus strike last week.

Gie said increased labour costs, levels of labour productivity, and escalating fuel prices were some of the factors which made the union's demands unfeasible.

Satawu spokesman Vincent Masoga said they would attend the meeting and that members' demands were open to negotiation, within reason.

"This year has been the most difficult year. The petrol price has increased so much and this has increased the cost of food. Our members cannot afford housing and schools."

An 18 percent wage increase, with additional allowances for housing, night shifts, and long-distance journeys, would help bus drivers meet the rising cost of living, Masoga said.

-Sapa

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