'Double-digit' demand blocks bus deal

By Drum Digital
26 April 2013

Unions representing striking bus industry workers persisted in their demand for a double-digit wage increase, holding up negotiations to end the strike, an employers' association said on Friday.

Talks between the unions and employers at the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation, and Arbitration (CCMA) on Wednesday had brought parties closer, Commuter Bus Employers' Organisation spokesman Barry Gie said.

"Talks at the CCMA were cordial, and parties are closer now than previously."

Gie said employers increased their offer from 6.5 percent to eight percent, across the board, for workers earning R23.50 an hour or less, and 7.5 percent for those earning more.

While all parties expressed reservations about certain aspects of the proposal, Gie said he did not think these concerns were insurmountable.

"However, the stumbling block of the unions' insistence on a double-digit increase remains," Gie said.

Due to pressures on the industry, including increased fuel costs, employers in the sector could not afford this.

Gie said that during the talks unions had reduced their demand from 18 percent to 13 percent.

SA Transport and Allied Workers' Union (Satawu) spokesman Vincent Masoga said this was simply part of the "give and take" of the negotiation process, and that since the talks deadlocked the union had reverted to its former demand.

"The employers are making it very difficult to negotiate with them."

He said the union was seeking legal advice on the possibility of bringing other transport sectors into a solidarity strike if a deal was not concluded soon.

He criticised deals struck between smaller unions and individual companies.

"This kind of union always sits on the fence and doesn't want to share the sacrifices of workers, but when we reach a better [settlement] they want to benefit from it."

Masoga said this type of conduct could promote violence.

The Bombela Concession Company's Gautrain bus service, Mega Express, reached a deal on Thursday night with majority union the United Transport and Allied Trade Union (Utatu) for a nine percent increase, effective from April 1.

Utatu deputy general secretary Pieter Greyling said workers' transport allowance was also increased from R35 a day to R45, effective from Friday.

"Whatever comes [out of] the centralised process will automatically be applied to this process, so that [our] people won't be worse off if there is a better deal."

Greyling said workers were holding a meeting in Midrand on Friday to prepare for their return to work on Monday.

-by Sapa

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