Employer hopes to avert looming Gautrain strike over wages

Commuters are fuming over Gautrain delays. (Photo: File, Netwerk24)
Commuters are fuming over Gautrain delays. (Photo: File, Netwerk24)

The Bombela Operating Company, which operates the Gautrain, has reached a deadlock in wage negotiations with workers, but is hopeful a settlement can be reached before a strike goes ahead on Monday. 

If the strike does go ahead on 30 July, BOC will try to keep a reduced train service running, the company said. 

"In the event of a strike, the bus and midi-bus services should not be impacted.

"We will endeavour to implement a reduced train service depending on available resources, and passengers will be informed accordingly over the course of the weekend. During this time, the safety and security of our passengers will remain a key priority and will not be compromised," said spokesperson for BOC, Kesagee Nayager.

Nayager told Fin24 via email that the company had received the notice of intention to strike from the United National Transport Union (UNTU) after a deadlock was declared.

The majority of UNTU's members voted in favour of the strike. If the industrial action goes ahead, it will be the first time Gautrain employees have gone on strike. 

The union rejected the offers tabled by the BOC at dispute resolution body the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration on Tuesday, the BOC said.

The company's offers were

  • a 7% across-the-board basic salary and allowance increase, a medical aid contribution of 50% and a collective bonus target of R8 000 per employee per year, equating to an overall increase of 8.6%;
  • a 8.5% across-the-board basic salary and allowance increase and a medical aid contribution of 55%, but without a bonus, which would equate to an overall increase of 8.4%.

UNTU, meanwhile, is demanding a basic salary increase of 10% and a housing allowance hike from R750 to R1 600. It is also asking for a new transport allowance of R800 for non-shift workers, a higher night work transport subsidy and night shift allowance, a medical aid contribution of 55% and a R20 000 bonus per employee per year. This would equate to an overall increase of 19.6%.

In a statement, UNTU said it would like to apologise in advance to commuters who would be affected by the strike. Its demands, it said, were based on "the current global economic recession which has a devastating impact on the daily lives of all our members", the union said.

"In accordance with South Africa’s Constitution and Labour legislation, UNTU members at the Gautrain has no alternative than to embark on a protected strike to try and force their employer to agree to their demands. It is UNTU’s last resort," said Steve Harris, General Secretary of the union in a statement.

BOC, meanwhile, said it remained open to further negotiations and that the company was hopeful a settlement could be reached before the strike began. A meeting had been requested with the union for Thursday, July 26. 

BOC would confirm on Friday if strike action would commence on Monday, Nayager said. 

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