Union: Drivers not scapegoats for Metrorail
Johannesburg - Train drivers are not prepared to be "scapegoats" for Metrorail's system failures, the United Transport and Allied Workers' Union (Utatu) said on Friday.
"Even though they are made to battle daily with unsafe trains and unreliable signalling systems, Utatu's Metrorail train drivers are prepared to walk that extra mile to co-operate with management to make Metrorail’s train services safer," Utatu general secretary Chris de Vos said in a statement.
"But they are not prepared to be made the scapegoats for the system's failures."
‘Illegal and cowardly act’
De Vos said Metrorail was shifting the blame for its unreliable trains onto its drivers.
"... It is arbitrarily dismissing train drivers whom it accuses of safety breaches.
"This illegal and cowardly action is in direct contravention to the labour laws which determine that employees accused of breaching regulations are entitled to a fair hearing in which all of the factors related to the incident are fully aired," he said.
On Wednesday, Metrorail announced that one of its drivers was fired after being found guilty of causing R12m in damage when he slammed into the back of a goods train on January 2.
A disciplinary hearing found the driver guilty of speeding and ignoring two danger signals.
The damages included the loss of three trailers and two motor coaches.
A metro guard in the driver's cabin was injured and spent three months in hospital.
Nineteen Metrorail drivers were facing disciplinary hearings for offences ranging from speeding to not heeding danger signals.
Metrorail came under fire for its safety standards after two trains crashed into each other in Soweto in May because of a driver error.
De Vos said "even if it means having to bring Metrorail’s services to a halt" the union would ensure drivers received a fair hearing.
Obsolete rolling stock
"In Utatu’s view, the present approach to safety issues of Metrorail’s CEO, Lucky Montana, is irrational.
"He is on record on the hazards of his company's obsolete rolling stock. He also knows that unlike most of the world's rail systems, his company has not invested in the Automatic Train Stop (ATS) system that safeguards train drivers, trains and their passengers," he said.
"Yet he persists in shifting the blame for his company's accidents on to the unfortunate personnel who have to battle with his company's defective systems."
Metrorail spokesperson Tony Games said drivers underwent disciplinary processes before being fired and unions were generally present with their members during those hearings.
He said of the driver found guilty of speeding and fired thereafter, that there was a "lengthy" disciplinary process which included an investigation into the cause of the accident.