As more than 16000 bus drivers went on a national strike, local commuters were not spared the inconvenience long queues that straddled the boundaries of taxi ranks, from Langa to Landsdowne and from Khayelitsha to Killarney.
This was witnessed during impromptu visits by City Vision staffers to taxi ranks in Gugulethu, Nyanga and Site C.
Frustrated and panic-stricken because of the fear of getting late to work, commuters were the worst for fear as the queues moved at a snails pace, seemingly because the taxis were bulging at the seems sans the buses.
Trade unions Transport and Allied Workers Union of South Africa(Tawusa), South African Transport and Allied Workers’ Union(Satawu), the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa), and Transport and Allied Workers Organisation(Tawo), declared a dispute last week and downed tools yesterday.
The wage talks between the unions and the SA Road Passenger Bargaining Council began in January, with the former demanding a one-year 12% increase across the board in wages along with a minimum wage of about R8 000.
The employers are offering a 7% increase‚ a 7.25% increase the next year‚ and a 7.3% increase by 2020.
It is reported that more than 62 different bus companies are participating in the strike.
The union’s list of demands include a pay for all the hours drivers spend on the bus‚ whether they are driving or not; a subsistence allowance for drivers on long distance rides and sleeping while on the road.
They also want night shift allowance, in compliance with the Basic Conditions of Employment Act and a special allowance for workers who qualify to drive buses pulling two or more coaches.\
At the Nyanga bus Terminus and the Site C taxi rank, queues dragged to as far as outside of the ranks, with depressed commuters heave-hoeing and clamouring for the first taxi to appear on their preferred destinations.
Television and radio news reports told the tale of millions of commuters affected by the bus driver strike.
In Mitchell’s Plain, one commuter said, trying to beat the rush, she woke up as early as 4:00AM, but to her dismay, found out hundreds more had beaten her to it.
As City Vision staffers tried to make sense of the long queues of commuters resembling a voting day, the depression on their faces belied a happy occasion, as panic had set in
Oupa Dyasi is a resident of Khayelitsha, but works in Milnerton. He had waited for an hour-and-a-half for his commute.
He deemed himself lucky to have made it to work on time.
“I had heard from the news about the looming strike so I tried to be extra early to get to work and I ended up waiting more than an hour to get onto a taxi.
My biggest worry now is the bus tickets that we won’t be using for as long as the strike continues,” he said.
Golden Arrow Bus Services have indicated that passengers will have an extended use of their bus tokens during the strike.
“The value of the tickets will not be lost,” a spokesperson said on radio.