The Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa) has promised the government that it would reach a wage agreement with striking unions by mid-week, its acting CEO said on Monday.
“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,” acting Prasa CEO Tumisang Kgaboesele said.
“They advised us that we need to move quickly,” he told the South African Press Agency.
Members of the South African Transport and Allied Workers’ Union (Satawu) and the United Transport and Allied Trade Union (Utatu) started a strike on Monday morning, leaving about two million commuters stranded.
The strike by nearly 12 000 workers severely disrupted Metrorail and Shosholoza Meyl operations.
Kgaboesele said Prasa held talks with Satawu on Saturday evening that were facilitated by Transport Minister Sbu Ndebele, Deputy Transport Minister Jeremy Cronin and Deputy Public Enterprises Minister Enoch Godongwana.
“We are not really that far apart on issues of wages and the new conditions of service,” said Kgaboesele.
We have started working on a proposal.”
Another meeting was scheduled to take place at 2pm on Monday at the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA).
Prasa had upped a 5% across the board offer to 8% while the unions were demanding a 16% increase.
The new offer was to make up for overtime and allowances that workers would lose if a planned new shift system was put in place, he said.
“We accept that there is hardship and that people have been relying on bonuses … the allowances and overtime; if we were to withdraw that, it is going to hit their members hard.
“They [the unions] have asked us to bring a sweetener to the table.”
He said Prasa spent more than R500-million per year on allowances and overtime.
“My budget is R4,6-billion of which R2,4-billion is for salaries … it’s just not sustainable,” said Kgaboesele. — Sapa