'Some progress' in Prasa wage talks

Some progress was made in talks with the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) and labour unions on Monday evening, with Prasa changing certain conditions of its offer, the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu) said.

“There was some movement from them ... they have changed their 8% conditions, but they will only put it in writing tomorrow,” Satawu deputy president Robert Mashego said.

“The principle is that they have agreed to move from wherever they were.”

He could however not divulge details of the new wage offer, saying Prasa first had to put the new conditions in writing when talks resumed on Tuesday morning.

“We adjourned for 10am tomorrow [Tuesday].”

The meeting at the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) ended around 8pm on Monday.

Making progress
Prasa acting chief executive officer Tumisang Kgaboesele said they “agreed to separate the wage offer from the conditions of service.

“I can confirm [that some sort of agreement was reached]. What was agreed on was just the general principles ... first separating the wage offer from conditions of service. Tomorrow the offer in the rands and cents will be tabled.”

Prasa initially offered an 8% wage increase—a 5% increase in wages and 3% in conditions of service.

“What we have [now] offered is 8% across-the-board, which would not include both the wages and conditions of service.”

United Transport and Allied Union (Utatu) general secretary Chris de Vos said the nationwide strike would continue at Metrorail and Shosholoza Meyl as no agreement had been reached yet.

He criticised Prasa management for “undermining” unions, saying it had failed to make senior managers available for talks.

“A serious concern is that Prasa has not approached this matter with the same respect as presidents of both unions involved ...
Prasa has sent their normal negotiating team to the CCMA.

“Transnet at least has involved the highest authority to be involved in an attempt to resolve the dispute. Once again a very clear reflection of their disrespect towards labour.”

Satawu and Utatu downed tools on Monday morning demanding a 16% wage increase. This led Prasa to suspend Metrorail and Shosholoza Meyl operations, leaving about two million commuters stranded.

‘Alternative arrangements should have been made’
The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) said Prasa could have made alternative transport arrangements for its commuters.

“The government has a responsibility to arrange public transport for commuters in the Western Cape. The fact that they use Metrorail to provide these services is a choice that they make, and so they have to make sure that Metrorail handles the wage and service level provisions adequately, so services are not compromised,” Cosatu said in a statement.

The Western Cape transport ministry, which had worked with the city of Cape Town, Golden Arrow Bus Services, taxi operators and the provincial chamber of commerce to provide alternative transport for stranded commuters, had not done enough, it said.

There had been a 70% increase in passengers for taxis, which had led to a massive rise in traffic volumes on key routes.

Golden Arrow had provided 197 extra buses and 200 extra morning peak bus trips, the ministry and taxi and bus operators said in a joint statement on Monday.—Sapa



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