- The troubled Passenger Rail Agency (Prasa) has been ordered by a court to pay hundreds of millions to employees.
- The order follows Prasa's refusal to abide by the terms of an existing wage agreement.
- Prasa, which has suffered huge operational losses, has asked employees to agree on a payment plan.
- For more financial news, go to the News24 Business front page.
The Passenger Rail Agency (Prasa), which is under severe financial stress, has been ordered by the Labour Court to pay employees hundreds of millions of rands for failing to honour the wage agreement in 2021.
The 5% increase will also raise the baseline of the wage bill for 2022/23 by 5%. Prasa's labour costs are in the region of R5.8 billion a year. Last year the agency made an R3.8 billion operational loss.
The increase is payable to members of the United National Transport Union (UNTU), the majority union. But Prasa will find it difficult not to extend the increase to the rest of the bargaining unit. Prasa is also responsible for UNTU's costs.
READ | Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula paints grim picture of Prasa's affairs
A three-year wage agreement for 5% per annum was signed in 2020/21. In March 2021 and 2022, Prasa reneged on the increase. UNTU general secretary Cobus van Rooyen said that the union planned further court action over the 2022/23 year.
The UNTU ruling differed from that made by the Constitutional Court in 2022 after government reneged on a three-year agreement with public servants. The Constitutional Court ruled in its favour and found that the wage agreement was illegal as correct mandating procedures were not followed and the National Treasury had been left out of the loop. The Treasury said that the agreement was unaffordable.
The court gave Prasa until 3 February to inform UNTU members of the quantum due to them.
In a letter to members, Van Rooyen said Prasa management had requested to meet with UNTU to discuss a payment plan.
In a statement late Thursday, Prasa confirmed that it would meet the requirements of the order.
"The Remuneration Committee chairperson, advocate Smanga Sethene, will be joined by Prasa management in a meeting with UNTU representatives in the coming week to find an amicable agreement that balances the needs of our employees and the sustainability of the business in the face of inflation and the soaring cost of living."
Prasa said it was confident that a mutually acceptable agreement would be reached.