Cash-strapped commuters had to dig even deeper into their pockets and jostle for space in minibus taxis yesterday, April 18, after bus drivers from Golden Arrow Bus Services and MyCiTi joined the nationwide bus strike over wages.
The indefinite strike has been called by the South African Transport and Allied Workers’ Union (Satawu) to resolve the impasse between labour and the employer. The union is demanding a 12% wage increase while the employer has put 7% on the table.
The union has vowed to continue striking until their demands are met, meaning commuters could find themselves stranded for a longer period of time.
The industrial action has received support from the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa). The union said it would also be embarking on an indefinite nationwide strike until “employers meet workers’ demands”.
“As Numsa we are dismayed by the intransigent and narrow-minded attitude adopted by employers represented by the South African Bus Employer’s Association (SABEA) and Commuter Bus Employers’ Association (COBEA) during the negotiations where they consistently frustrated wage talks,” read a statement from the union.
“As a result, the union is left with no option but to call on all its members in the bus sector to down tools. Both union members and non-union members will embark on an indefinite strike.”
The strike has already had a negative impact on commuters as most had to seek alternative transport. Long lines started forming early at major transport interchanges, including Site C and Nyanga, yesterday as commuters tried to reach their respective work destinations.
Samora Machel resident and a bus user, Mambhele Tokwana, said she had to resort to taking a train. She had to brave the cold weather and wait for the train at the Philippi train station on her way to Nyanga Junction.
“I am waiting for something that I do not know what time will arrive,” she said. “But I am told the trains are hourly. I am forced to take it if I want to get where I want. But I must confess the train is better than the taxis. I am scared of taxis, their driving is so reckless and scary for me. I am also not in the mood for rude people that drive taxis,” she said.
For street vendor at Govan Mbeki Road, Philippi, Phindile Mbashe, it was a bad trading day. He sells fruit and vegetables from 4.30am daily to those who take the bus from 5am.
However, he had to sit and look at his fruit and vegetable stand with nothing happening.
“”The bus strike has hit me hard. It badly affected my business and I am sure others too. If it is going to continue, then we are in big trouble,” he said.
In a statement, Golden Arrow said it had decided to lock all its depots to protect buses and commuters until the strike was over.
However, it said commuters with weekly and monthly clip-cards would still be allowed to use them once the strike is over.
Brett Herron, mayoral committee member for transport and urban development, said the City of Cape Town had no option but to halt all its MyCiTi bus services for the duration of the strike.
He said MyCiTi commuters with monthly tickets must note that the monthly packages will be extended equal to the number of days the strike action lasts. The number of days will be determined once the strike has come to an end.
“The strike will have a serious knock-on effect on all public transport and road-based traffic as more than 72 000 commuters rely on the MyCiTi service on any given weekday. Given the challenges that Metrorail is experiencing we anticipate that the strike action will have a severe impact on Cape Town’s commuters in general,” he said.
Satawu national spokeswoman, Zanele Sabela apologised to the commuters. She said until their demands were met the strike would continue.
“Unfortunately many people were inconvenienced. I hope the employer would notice the inconvenience they have caused. And hopefully they would stop beating about the bush and come up with a better offer,” she said.
Numsa provincial secretary, Vuyo Lufele, said his union would intensify the strike.
“The strike is very effective and it will continue for as long as we are getting what we want. We remain firm and strong behind the strike. Our now is to engage with our comrades that drive the long distance buses. We know that they are behind us but they were away when the strike started,” he said.
Negotiations are set to continue today.