#BusStrike: Ultimatums plague negotiations

Golden Arrow Bus Depot in Philippi (David Harrison/MG)

Golden Arrow Bus Depot in Philippi (David Harrison/MG)

The bus strike will continue, South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu) spokesperson Zanele Sabela has confirmed.

Unions met with employers on Thursday in a renewed effort to end the impasse in negotiations. The nationwide strike is now in its third week.

Employers held firm to their original offer of 8% wage increases in the first year and 8.5% increase in the second year, Sabela told the Mail & Guardian.

In a statement issued on Thursday, the employer parties of the South African Road Passenger Bargaining Council said negotiations collapsed and alleged unions threatened to revert to their previous demand of a 12% increase.

This after Satawu accused the employers of leaving unions with an ultimatum last week — a threat that John Dammert from the employer’s caucus denied.

“Giving ultimatums is not in our domain as an association and it totally runs against the grain of negotiating in good will,” Dammert said.

But Sabela countered Dammert’s claim, telling EWN: “So, throughout the week they had been denying that they gave us the ultimatum that if we didn’t accept that offer by yesterday, then they will revert back to the media over the proposal. But that’s effectively what they have done today.”

Sabela also vehemently denied the bus bosses’ suggestion that the unions attempted to browbeat them through an ultimatum.

In their statement, the employers associations emphasised the potential damage the prolonged strike action — and a capitulation to union demands — would have on the bus sector and commuters.

“These demands are completely out-of-sync with the current economic climate and will have to be passed on to commuters through increased ticket costs,” the statement reads.

The statement also alleged that the industry average wage for a bus driver currently is R16 000. “In stark contrast to this an independently verified survey has shown that more than 65% of commuters earned less than R4000 in 2016.”

But Sabela denied the accuracy of this figure. Unions have since vowed to intensify strike action.

Sarah Smit

Sarah Smit

Sarah Smit both subs and writes for the Mail & Guardian. She joined the M&G after completing her master’s degree in English Literature from the University of Cape Town. She is interested in the literature of the contemporary black diaspora and its intersection with queer aesthetics of solidarity. Her recent work considers the connections between South African literary history and literature from the rest of the Continent. Read more from Sarah Smit

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