Rail commuters still in limbo

Train commuters will have to wait until Monday for Metrorail trains as one of the transport unions had not signed a deal with the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa), the agency said on Thursday night.

“Unfortunately we can’t run the trains because we have to run clinical tests first. Our clinical teams will go there tomorrow [Friday] and check the trains and rails … full services will be on Monday,” Prasa acting CEO Tumisang Kgaboesele said.

The parastatal was awaiting feedback from the South African Transport and Allied Worker’s Union (Satawu), which was still polling its members about Prasa’s 10% wage offer. Only the United Transport and Allied Trade Union (Utatu) had signed the 10% wage increment agreement by 6pm on Thursday.

“What happened is that when they [unions] reported back to us, Satawu’s report was that its membership was demanding 13%. The offer on the table was the last offer and we were not going to move anyway,” Kgaboesele said.

Satawu and Utatu had until Sunday to make up their minds, he said. Satawu general secretary Zenzo Mahlangu said the union was “trying to tie up loose ends relating to the mandate in process … We just want to make sure that our mandate is concluded so we’ll probably sign tomorrow [Friday]”.

Utatu general secretary Chris de Vos could not immediately be reached for comment, but in a voicemail he left on his phone he said: “It is 6pm, we have just signed a wage agreement deal with Prasa”.

The two unions at Prasa began a strike on Monday that saw Metrorail, Shosholoza Meyl and Autopax bus services shut down countrywide.

They initially wanted 15 percent increase, while the company was offering 8%.

Late on Wednesday, they managed to resolve a clause in the conditions of employment, a matter which would now be dealt with separately.

The new agreement covered a 10% wage increase, four months of maternity leave, new conditions of employment and, most importantly to Prasa, moving to a 24-hour roster.

“It was important. The biggest problem we have is we cannot maintain the infrastructure [without overtime],” Kgaboesele said.

By shifting to a 24-hour roster, Prasa could schedule maintenance work when passenger services were not active.

Kgaboesele said the change could save Prasa up to R350-million of its current R550-million overtime bill.

Meanwhile, the Transnet deal would only be signed on Friday as Satawu was still consulting its members on the new offer. Utatu had
been prepared to sign, but was told it could not until Satawu had indicated its position.

The strike at Transnet began with Satawu on Monday May 10. Utatu joined a day later.

Transnet employs nearly 54 000 people. Satawu represents 39% and Utatu represents 45% of the workers. — Sapa

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