Bus companies involved in April’s protracted strike have reportedly threatened to challenge the bargaining council’s wage agreement in the Constitutional Court.
In a statement, the South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) alleges that Algoa, Golden Arrow, Putco, Amogelang and Phumatra Transport Enterprise — who all signed the agreement with unions in May following the 26-day strike — want the agreement declared “unaffordable, unlawful, unfair and unconstitutional”.
“If this application succeeds it could not only mark the end of collective bargaining in the bus industry but in the country as a whole and shift the balance of power in the workplace even further in favour of employers than it is already,” Saftu said.The two-year wage agreement resolved that workers would receive a 9% wage hike in the first year and 8% in 2019.
At the end of June, the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union raised alarm bells when it alleged Putco had refused to pay the wage increase and bonuses to its workers following the retrenchment of 220 workers.
The bus companies have reportedly cited recent fuel hikes as a reason why they cannot pay the wage increases.
Throughout the wage negotiations, bus bosses insisted they could not pay the proposed wage increase.
During the strike Golden Arrow spokesperson John Dammert explained that the bus sector — in addition to experiencing operational difficulties — is dealing with dwindling support in the form of subsidies from the department of transport as another reason why employers could not meet the demands made by unions.
Saftu’s statement is based on a Business Day article, which contains information from insiders who have alleged that some company representatives threatened to challenge the agreement in the Constitutional Court.
Dammert was unable to comment on the validity of these claims to the Mail & Guardian as, he said, each company has its own reasons for seeking exemption and Golden Arrow’s submission has yet to be heard by the bargaining council’s exemption panel.
General secretary of the South African Road Passenger Bargaining Council Gary Wilson was also wary about confirming or denying the alleged threat of court action “as the [exemption] process has not run its course”.