Cosatu slams Golden Arrow for letting down working-class commuters

Cosatu has condemned Golden Arrow Bus services “for the disdain that they are showing to the commuters” during the turbulence of the nationwide bus strike.

The strike comes after a “stalemate in wage talks” between unions and employer associations including Commuter Bus Employers Organisation and South African Bus Employers Association (Sabea). The wage negotiations have been ongoing since January.

In a statement issued on April 9, the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu) detailed the demands of the strike and assured that trade unions participating in the strike will embark on one “unless employers put an offer on the table that ensures workers are able to withstand the economic challenges brought on by the increase in personal tax rates and VAT”.

On Wednesday, thousands of commuters have been left stranded, some of them inevitably opting to take taxis – resulting in taxi drivers being inundated with new passengers.

Though Cosatu released a statement in which they formally supported the bus strike, the trade federation also remarked on the fact that the strike action is likely to affect the working class the most.“The strike is designed to teach the bosses a lesson by affecting their level of profits but at the moment the bosses are carrying on. The only people hard done by the strike is the commuters with no alternative transport especially in a big city like Cape Town,” Cosatu Western Cape secretary Tony Ehrenreich told eNCA.

Cosatu has accused Golden Arrow in particular for failing commuters and in a statement said that the company is obliged to provide transport services to weekly ticket holders – even in the event of strike action.

“The company has the ability to arrange for Metrorail to accept the bus tickets on their trains, the same way that Metrorail arranges for the company to accept their train tickets on their busses. It is only because of the contempt they have for workers and commuters that they have not made these similar arrangements,” the statement reads.The statement said that strikes are “meant to put pressure on the bosses to pay decent salaries, not to put added pressure on the workers who are commuters, with no alternatives”.

In a media statement released prior to the strike, Golden Arrow said that – in the event of strike action – a company-wide lock-out would be instituted for the duration of the strike “in order to ensure the safety of our passengers and staff”.

The company said that services would therefore be suspended from April 18 and weekly and monthly clipcards that are valid when the strike commences will be extended when service resumes.

Golden Arrow’s public relations manager Bronwen Dyke-Beyer told the Mail & Guardian under normal circumstances, the company has and would activate an agreement with Metrorail to allow passengers could board trains using their valid clipcard.

However, she said, given the present capacity issues which Metrorail is experiencing, “it would not be feasible or fair to create the expectation that Metrorail would be able to accommodate 230 000 potential additional passengers”. 

Sarah Smit
Sarah Smit
Sarah Smit is a general news reporter at the Mail & Guardian. She covers topics relating to labour, corruption and the law.

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