Commuters battle as drivers embark on second day of illegal strike

Dozens of Golden Arrow buses and drivers’ private vehicles blockaded the entrance of the bus company`s main depot in Montana today as drivers embarked on the second day of their illegal strike.

The strike resumed despite calls from union officials for staff to return to work today.

The call by the SA Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu) went unheeded as workers vowed to continue with the protest until their demands were met.

Bus services were hampered from as early as 2am today

The situation at the Arrowgate depot in Montana was calm but tense this morning and MP Tame, a shop steward, said that if management did not meet their demands the strike would escalate.

“It’s going to get worse, much worse,” the shop steward said.

The company`s Philippi depot was also shut down, leaving commuters in surrounding areas stranded.

Mitchells Plain bus terminus was deserted, as regular bus commuters opted to travel by taxi, leading to queues that snaked through the nearby taxi rank.

Gamiedah Bailey of Porterville, who was en route to Cape Town, said she had been standing in the taxi queue for about an hour. On a normal day it would take her less than five minutes to board a bus.

Taxi drivers took full advantage of the rise in the number of customers and one taxi driver said he expected to make double his usual money.

Golden Arrow spokesman Vuyisle Mdoda said the workers’ protest was in response to the company weighing up disciplinary against union members who had taken part in a strike more than a week ago.

The earlier strike, in protest against Drivecam, a personnel monitoring system introduced at the Eastgate depot in Blackheath as a pilot project, was quickly resolved.

Satwa regional secretary Evan Abrahamse confirmed yesterday that the strike was illegal and conceded that they had not filed a notice with the Commission for Conciliation Mediation & Arbitration or the National Economic Development & Labour Council to engage in protest action.

Yesterday, we convened a meeting with our members. We explained to them that the protest action was illegal.” said Abrahamse.

Mdoda said they were engaged in ongoing discussions with Satawu.

He said commuters who had bus clip cards would be allowed to use Metrorail trains and that they bad attempted to inform the public about the situation through the media and their call centre, which has been inundated with calls from disgruntled commuters.

Riana Scott, spokeswoman for Metrorail, said the clip cards could only be used between 8,30am and 3.45pm and again after 5,30pm because of congestion on trains during peak hours.

“We’re willing to help the commuters but we have to consider our own passengers first,” she said, Earlier today Abrahamse said the strike had spread and the number of participants had grown, although he could not yet determine an exact figure.

“We have determined that the impact is quite severe from the traffic reports coming through and the amount of stranded commuters,” he said. He said all depots were affected, but Golden Arrow’s Mdoda said only three of their six depots were affected – at East Gate, Arowgate and Philippi.

Yesterday disgruntled commuters were forced to find alternative transport to and from work. According to Golden Arrow, workers barricaded the gates at the company’s Arrow gate depot at around 5am yesterday, blocking buses from leaving and affecting services to Khayelitsha, Gugulethu and other parts of the Cape Flats.

More than half of the company’s 1 000-bus fleet which is operational during peak period, failed to leave their depots yesterday.


Cape Argus – Staff Reporters