Autopax does not have to take on Putco staff - court

Bus. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)
Bus. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)

Johannesburg - Bus operator Autopax does not have to take on the staff of Putco bus service after the latter voluntarily terminated eight contracts with the department of transport, Gauteng's MEC for roads and transport Ismail Vadi said on Thursday.

This is because it is not transferring a going concern to the new operator, Vadi said in a statement, following a ruling by the Labour Court.

The news came as Autopax's CEO Nathi Khena was suddenly elevated to head of the Passenger Rail Agency (Prasa) after the surprise departure of former CEO Lucky Montana on Wednesday.

''We welcome the judgment in favour of the government,'' said Vadi.

He said in the legal dispute between Putco and Autopax, the court held that based on the facts before it, the temporary contract between the Department of Roads and Transport and Autopax was not sufficient to trigger Section 197 of the Labour Relations Act, which would have made it obligatory for Autopax to take on Putco's staff.

The court ruled that “the components of the original business that were transferred to the new service provider, Autopax, are too meagre and fragmented to support the conclusion that the transfer of business was as a ‘going concern’.”

On June 30 Autopax, a state-owned entity and wholly owned subsidiary of the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa), announced it would operate the eight affected contracts that were not renewed by Putco as of then.

Putco withdrew from eight routes in Gauteng, including Mamelodi northeast of Pretoria, because they were unprofitable. 

On its first day of operation in Mamelodi, Autopax drivers had to face the wrath of taxi drivers and also did not have enough drivers because many had been redeployed.

The temporary takeover of the route by Autopax angered taxi drivers, who thought they would be able to get new business by filling the void left by Putco. They were furious that Autopax got a licence so quickly while they are battling to get theirs.

Last Wednesday officials impounded at least 50 taxis to stop the violence. They were released after officials did roadworthy and document checks on the vehicles.

In the dispute shots were fired and commuters left stranded.

Zenzo Mahlanga, secretary general of the The SA Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu), which took the matter to the Labour Court to get the Putco staff transferred, said the long-term effects of the judgment might be crippling.

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