GEORGE NEWS & VIDEO - Two days after the official end of the national bus strike, GO GEORGE buses were back on the road. The first bus left the depot in York Street at 04:30 on Wednesday 16 May to start its route, much to the relief of commuters who bore the brunt of the almost month-long strike action for better wages.
There was a significant police and traffic department presence on all the routes in George.
Predictions that the taxi industry would not give up their temporary windfall proved to be unfounded as there were no taxis on the designated GO GEORGE routes. An insider who knows the industry told the George Herald, "I hope it lasts. The taxis were aware that there would be heightened security on the routes."
The five unions that led the strike agreed at the National Bargaining Council in Gauteng on Monday 14 May to a 9% wage increase in the first year, and an 8 % increase applicable next year.
The last obstacle to ending the strike was brokered on Monday when employers agreed to compensate workers from 1 to 17 April, but only on their basic wages.
Mixed reaction from commuters
There was a mixed reaction from commuters as the first GO GEORGE bus in nearly a month approached the bus stop. The majority were pleased to see the buses as they would be able to use their multi-journey bus ticket to any destination in town, saving a considerable amount of money. Other commuters, however, said that the taxis were faster and more convenient as they picked them up in front of their house and dropped them at their workplace.
Bus drivers satisfied
Tsase Ramphisa, chairperson of the Numsa shop stewards at GO GEORGE, said they know that they operate in a service industry and therefore a strike is always the last resort.
Ramphisa said, "We regard our actions as successful, as before the strike our employer offered us a 4,7% increase only, and now we have 9% this year and 8% next year, worked out on the higher base figure."
John Heathcote, operations manager of George Link, the employer of the bus drivers, said the contracting authority instructed them not to operate during the strike.
"The union informed George Link that all the workers would return yesterday, Wednesday 16 May, and we resumed full service on time."
Watch a video below:
The validity of the multi-journey tickets (MJT) will be extended with 28 days from yesterday, Wednesday 16 May. All MJTs bought before the strike will be valid up until and including 12 June.
Chantel Edwards-Klose, spokesperson for the George Municipality, said she is delighted that this difficult period is now over.
Cllr Basil Petrus, chairperson of the Section 79 GIPTN committee that deals with matters related to the George Integrated Public Transport Network (GIPTN) project, thanked the public, employers and commuters for their understanding during the strike.
"It seems as we can once again call George "good ol' George".
'We bring you the latest George, Garden Route news'