Local commuters and road users across the province had to sit in long queues or find alternative routes when staff at the national toll plazas went on strike on Monday morning.Backlogged traffic and busy roads were the order of the day as South African Transport and Allied Workers’ Union (Satawu) members employed by Intertoll Africa embarked on a national strike affecting main routes such as the N3 and the N2. Satawu spokesperson Zanele Sabela said on Monday that the union issued a 48-hour notice of strike on Friday, “as a last resort to protracted and difficult wage negotiations that started late last year”. “The negotiated wage deal was supposed to have been implemented on March 1, but parties have not been able to agree,” she said, adding workers are demanding a minimum wage of R7 000 per month for toll collectors, administrators and cleaners. She said the employer was currently paying its staff R3 970 a month.She said members had also demanded six months’ maternity leave at full pay, annual leave of 25 days and medical aid cover to be extended to family.“At the root of workers’ disgruntlement is the disproportionate distribution of the company’s takings. On an ordinary day, a worker collects R20 000 on behalf of the South African National Roads Agency (Sanral). “Intertoll workers collected R1,6 billion for the 2016/2017 financial year. That same year six executives took home a staggering R18 million each, including guaranteed bonuses of a R3 million per head. Hence, our members at the N1 South Grasmere Plaza to Free State, N4 Magalies towards Rustenburg and N2 from Mthunzini to Othangathi will down tools until their demands are met.”She added that the impact of the strike had mainly been felt in KZN, where there are long queues at toll plazas at Mthunzini and Othangathi on the N2. “Some toll gates are not manned, therefore motorists are just passing without paying, which should motivate management to come back to the table. “The protest will continue until workers’ demands are met,” she said.Intertoll Africa (ITA) spokesperson Kgomotso Kalela they have always been open to discussions with the unions, especially Satawu as a majority union. “We held several bilateral discussions with the union until midnight last week Wednesday to try and prevent the strike. “We were close to reaching agreement on an acceptable offer and on how we should move forward on the new minimum for the industry. However, when Satawu leaders presented the offer to their members, it was rejected.“We approached the CCMA to offer mediation. They have confirmed that they will be able to facilitate a mediation session today, to which all the parties have been invited.”He said ITA remains committed to fair compensation. “We deem it unreasonable to expect an employer to increase wages by 70% in the current market conditions. “We have proposed to the unions to establish a working committee consisting of management and trade unions to review the employee compensation and benefits in the overall industry. We believe this will be a longer-lasting solution as it has been successful in other industries where they have established minimum wages for the industry and not with a single employer.“ITA believes that the strike is indeed unfortunate and calls on both unions to assist in matching the interests of business and workers.“We are doing our utmost to address matters of concern with unions and remain committed to finding a speedy resolution.” South African National Roads Agency (Sanral) spokesperson Vusi Mona said the striking workers are employed by Intertoll, a company contracted to Sanral to manage four of its toll plazas in the country and that Sanral was in no way involved in the dispute. Provincial police spokesperson Lieutenant-Colonel Thulani Zwane said police monitored the protest action and no violence was reported.