Commuters stranded as rail strike bites

A strike by rail workers left two million commuters stranded on Monday just 24 days from the kick-off of the Soccer World Cup, in which the rail network is expected to play a major role.

Nearly 12 000 workers at the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa went on strike Monday, shutting down the agency’s commuter trains and inter-city rail network nationwide.

Tumisang Kgaboesele, the agency’s acting CEO, said the government had called for a quick resolution of the strike.

“The government has expressed concern about the effect the strike would have on commuters and the potential violence and intimidation that normally arises with it,” Kgaboesele told the South African Press Association (Sapa).

“They advised us that we need to move quickly.”

About two million commuters were left stranded by the strike, Sapa estimated.

The rail agency said it had offered workers an 8% across-the-board wage increase, but workers were demanding 16%.

The strike involves workers from two unions, the South African Trade and Allied Workers’ Union and the United Transport and Allied Trade Union, whose members had already gone on strike last week at national transport authority Transnet, which oversees the country’s rail network, harbours and fuel pipelines.

Monday’s strike shut down all Metrorail commuter trains and the Shosholoza Meyl inter-city rail network, both of which are expected to help ferry World Cup fans to and from matches during the June 11 to July 11 tournament.

The rail agency has spent $225-million upgrading its train and bus services ahead of the World Cup. — AFP

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