NEW HOPE FOR END TO BUS STRIKE DEADLOCK

Unions will discuss deferment timetable after negotiators offer fresh proposals and a new wage offer.

A fresh proposal by negotiators in the bus strike and a new wage offer by employers could break the deadlock in the two-week dispute as soon as Wednesday.

As part of a reviewed offer to workers, the Commission for Conciliation, Arbitration and Mediation and the South African Road Passenger Bargaining Council have suggested referring all outstanding conditions of service demands tabled by unions — except for the wage increase — to a task team under the commission.

These include the provision of medical aid, payment of night shift allowances and regulation of working hours.

South African Transport and Allied Workers Union spokeswoman Zanele Sabela said that if the deferment got a green light from workers, it would provide parties enough time to thrash out the critical issues, which have remained unsolved for years.

“If the proposed offer is accepted, it will give us two years to fight for the other demands,” she said. Workers would from Monday deliberate on the deferment and reviewed wage increases of 8.75% for 2018 and 8.25% for 2019 — as proposed by the commission and the council.

The two bodies intervened after the talks between employers and labour had deadlocked many times.

Sabela said an outcome of the consultations with workers was expected on Wednesday. Workers downed tools 20 days ago after employers failed to meet their demands.

Another sticking point was, according to unions, the insistence of bus companies to remunerate drivers only for the time they spent behind the wheel, discounting the actual time spent on the job.

The strike has affected millions of commuters across the country and will cost bus companies millions of rand in lost revenue, while the workers would also go home with about a week’s wages if the strike is resolved this week.

Although the bus strike was protected, the no work, no pay rule applied.

The five labour unions involved in the dispute — including the country’s biggest union, the National Union of Metalworkers of SA — have accused employers of caring little about the strike and its effect on both commuters and the wider economy.

They pointed to the continued payment of subsidies to bus companies by the state during the strike as the possible reason behind employers’ failure to accede to their demands and bring the strike to an end.

“We think the employers’ extreme arrogance is informed by the fact that the state is helping them by subsidising them while this strike is under way. It is outrageous that while our members are being denied wages during this strike, the same taxes which are deducted from them are being used to reward the greedy, selfish bosses of the bus companies,” the unions said in a statement.

Employers were expected to meet on Tuesday over the recent developments, said Commuter Bus Employers Organisations spokesman John Dammert.

The employers’ organisation represents Golden Arrow Bus Services, Putco, Mgqibelo, Buscor and Mayibuye.

In a statement on Saturday, Golden Arrow described as ruinous the wage increase demand. “Unfortunately the demands from labour have simply been too high to be accommodated by industry and conceding to such demands would seriously jeopardise the sustainability of bus companies across South Africa,” said company CEO Francois Meyer.

The labour unions initially asked for a 12% wage hike in February, while the employers’ initial offer was 7%.

Source: Business Live – mahlakoanat@businesslive.co.za