NATIONAL NEWS - Commuters in Cape Town were left stranded as bus services came to a halt on Wednesday as bus drivers across the country went on strike after a wage dispute deadlock with their employer.
The workers are demanding a 12 percent wage increase while employers are only offering seven percent.
The strike left frustrated commuters to rely on minibus taxis and trains. In Mitchell’s Plain on Wednesday morning, many regular taxi commuters were left frustrated as thousands of stranded commuters flooded the taxi ranks.
A woman that normally takes the bus said she works for a company that is not very understanding and that she is expected to be on time despite the bus drivers strike. The woman, who works in the Cape Town CBD, about 30 kilometres from Mitchells plain, added that she is also just as worried about when she needs to travel home on Wednesday night as there are no taxis from the Mitchell’s Plain taxi rank to where she resides in Strandfontein.
However, the South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) was in full agreement with the strike and pledged their support to the striking bus workers.
Saftu in a statement said they are standing firm against companies who had been intransigent and have consistently frustrated attempts to negotiate a settlement.
Saftu acting spokesperson Patrick Craven said: “Bus workers endure long and unsocial hours of work, with a high danger of accidents, yet employers want to worsen their working conditions even further, including paying less than the full wage to alternative drivers who have to be on the bus for just as long as the actual driver.
“Wages are already low, and now workers are having to pay more for goods and services following increases in VAT, fuel levy and the road accident levy, and Eskom is applying for another electricity tariff rise.”
Craven said none of the hikes has been reflected in the Consumer Price Index (CPI) which measures inflation and workers are therefore within their right to demand the increases to protect their living standards.
“As our affiliate, NUMSA says: ‘It is clear that this opportunism is driven by and encouraged by the current desperation of our government to introduce a slavery national minimum wage. This will have the impact of creating a two-tier labour system where some workers earn higher than others. It violates the principle of equal pay for work of equal value, and over time, those who earn more will be retrenched.'”
Saftu urged commuters using buses as their only form of transport to understand that a strike is “always the last resort” and that workers regret the inconvenience caused by it, however, Saftu said the blame lies with the employers who are not responding positively to their workers.