Travel blues during bus strike

Commuters are using taxis to get to work during the bus strike.

As the bus strike continued to squeeze commuters this week, president of the Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry Janine Myburgh warned against trying to find a “one size fits all” solution and called for more democracy in labour relations.

Ms Myburgh, of Boston, said the strike had caused problems and disruptions for everyone from schools to factories.

“At this stage, the damage is impossible to quantify.

“The Chamber does not become involved in negotiations between employers and their workers, but we are concerned about above-inflation wage increases.

“In this case, both the offer by the employers and the worker’s demands are above the Consumer Price Index (CPI). We believe, that what we need to see is an increase in productivity because that is the best way to justify high wage increases,” she said.

Azalita Rogers, of Goodwood, usually uses Golden Arrow buses to get to work in Parow but she’s had to rely on taxis since the strike started on Wednesday last week.

“Taking the taxi is very dangerous and I have to leave at 5.40am to get to work at 6.05am.”

She said the taxis often sped down Voortrekker Road and she said “gangsters” boarded the taxis at some stops and robbed passengers.

“I pay R9.50 when using the taxi, but I don’t feel safe. I don’t have a problem with the buses even though I have had to stand at certain intervals due to over-crowding.”

Charles Wakefield, of Matroosfontein, works in Parow, and he worries about his wife, Monica, who has to catch two taxis to get to work in Maitland.

“Normally she arrives home after 5pm, now she is almost two hours late in coming home due to the strike. This bus strike is terrible and it should be resolved as soon as possible,” he said.

Mr Wakefield kept his daughter, 10, home from school a few days last week due to the bus strike. “I can’t let her take a taxi alone; it’s too dangerous,” he said.

Pensioner Derek Dirk was waiting for a train at Vasco station last week when he spoke to Northern News.

“These trains are constantly late. The longest I have waited to get home using a train is two hours,” he complained.

“Do you know how many people lose their jobs after their bosses become sick and tired of them being constantly late for work?

“Once I sat from 12.45pm until 3pm waiting for a train at Vasco station to get home to Matroosfontein.”

Noluvuyo Mleleki, who works at N1 City, said she had been waiting for a train for more than a half hour.

“This bus strike has affected the train times because everyone is now using them to get to work,” she said.

Zanele Sabela, spokeswoman for the South African Transport and Allied Workers’ Union (SATAWU), said negotiations between employers and the unions had broken down on Friday April 20. The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa, the Transport and Omnibus Workers’ Union and Tirisano Transport Workers Union are also caught up in the fray.

“Initially we called for a 12% increase and then brought that down to 9.5%,” she said.

Employers were holding out at an 8% increase in the first year and 8.5% in the second.

Ms Sabela called on all bus drivers who had not yet joined the strike to do so.

“We are calling for them to intensify the strike,” she said.

She said the unions also wanted full-pay for back-up drivers.

“The second driver, who is not at the wheel at the beginning of the journey is only entitled to a R400 allowance a month. Another concern is night shifts. Labour also wants workers to be compensated for sleeping-out and have demanded employers arrange and pay for decent accommodation so that drivers can rest adequately when they are away from home,” she said.

However, Ms Myburgh said conditions varied greatly from one region to another and national bargaining did not take that into account.

“In addition to this, many employers are more generous than others and provide excellent benefits to staff. I don’t believe this ‘one size fits all’ approach is the best way to go,” she said

A bigger increase might be justified in some areas but not in others.

“The cost of housing and transport varies and these differences should be taken into account,” she said.

Ms Myburgh called for more democracy in the workplace.

“We have called for strike ballots for many years now and although there is an agreement that this mechanism is used in many countries, nothing seems to happen.

“The bill which will introduce strike ballots seems to be stuck in Parliament. The problem we have is that when one doesn’t have a democratic procedure for decisions on strikes, one leaves the door open to undemocratic ways and that can mean intimidation and violence. We need more democracy in labour relations”

Meanwhile, Brett Herron, the City’s mayoral committee member for transport and urban development, thanked the minibus-taxi industry for stepping in to get commuters where they needed to be.

“We have seen long queues at minibus-taxi facilities.

“If it was not for these operators thousands of commuters would have been left stranded. I also welcome the help that is being provided by Metrorail by operating additional trips where they can – in particular on the Northern and Southern lines,” he said.