The South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu) says it will know whether striking drivers have accepted an improved salary offer by Wednesday. But other key demands are still up in the air.
The bargaining council and the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) had proposed an offer of an 8.75% wage increase for the first year and 8.25% for the second. They had suggested it be backdated to April 1.
Employers have thus far held firm to an offer of 8% in the first year and 8.5% increase in the second.
Beyond the wage battle, strike negotiations have also reached an impasse on two key issues: the foot-on-the-pedal rule, which decrees that long-distance drivers and dual drivers are paid only for the time that they are at the wheel — and not for the time in between — and the night shift hours of these drivers.
Drivers and unions are calling for a redefinition of night-shift hours — which are currently from 8pm to 3am, as per the South African Road Passenger Bargaining Council — to be from 6pm to 6am, as the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA) defines night work.They are also arguing that the foot-on-the-pedal rule unfairly affects dual drivers, the drivers who accompany the main long-distance drivers and, along with performing other duties, relieve the main drivers when fatigue sets in.
Last Friday, the National Union of Metalworkers South Africa (Numsa) — one of the unions in the bargaining council — reiterated the centrality of these demands, saying in a statement that unions “cannot compromise” on the “flagrant abuse of workers’ rights” that current conditions underpin.
Satawu spokesperson Zanele Sabela told the Mail & Guardian that these issues could be put to a task team, which will be overseen by the CCMA to make sure that drivers’ demands are met.
Phakamile Hlubi-Majola, Numsa’s spokesperson, confirmed that the idea of the task team was raised during negotiations, but emphasised the importance that these key demands are swiftly resolved.
Hlubi-Majola said that Numsa had previously been willing to advance the task team idea to its members as a package that would accompany a 9% wage increase for the first year and 9.5% increase for the second.
She said that the current CCMA proposal of 8.75% and 8.25% means that the union would have to reconvene with its members on the possible relegation of these other demands.