Commuters suffer as Gautrain strike set to continue
The United National Transport Union (UNTU) denied on Monday that buses were prevented from leaving the Gautrain depot in Midrand during their protected strike, and vowed that strike action would continue until workers’ demands were taken seriously.
The United National Transport Union (UNTU) embarked on a strike on Monday morning, demanding a 10% wage increase and other incentives from the Bombela Operating Company (BOC), which runs the Gautrain.
Earlier on Monday, Fin24 reported that Gautrain spokesperson Kesagee Nayager said striking workers had blocked the road at the Midrand depot, preventing buses from leaving and causing delays.
UNTU secretary general Steve Harris told Fin24 that no buses were prevented from leaving the depot.
“To the majority of these members, this strike has become much more than just a fight about annual wages,” said Harris.
“They want to know what their employer is hiding from them by refusing the union to have confidential access to its financial statements.”
Harris said that striking members, comprised of train drivers, security, customer service and conductors at Gautrain, have asked for a transport allowance of R800, a housing allowance of R1 600, a basic salary increase of 10%, and incentive bonuses of R20 000 for all employees.
Another key issue was that while managers share in the profits of the company, workers on the ground do not, he added.
Open to negotiation
Nayager said Bombela remained open to negotiations with the union.
“The Company offered an 8.5% increase in salaries and benefits. Furthermore, it offered to increase the minimum wage for operational staff to R8 500 per month.
“This offer was rejected by UNTU, whose latest demand equates to a global increase of 19.5%.”
As the strike got underway on Monday, a handful of frustrated commuters waited outside the Gautrain Sandton station for alternative transport arrangements.
A handwritten notice board advised travellers of the restricted operations, while a barricade partially barred the entrance to the station and security guards turned commuters away.
Metred taxi drivers tried their luck to entice stranded commuters into their vehicles.
“It’s basically a train smash for me,” a Pretoria based university student, who asked to remain anonymous, told Fin24.
She was unaware of the strike and had come to the Sandton station on Monday morning to catch a train to Hatfield to attend class.
She was informed at the station that the next train to Pretoria would be at 16:00 on Monday, and she blamed the Gautrain for failing to communicate adequately with commuters about the delays.
At the same time, Gautrain drivers complained of difficult work conditions.
A train driver who wished to remain unidentified told Fin24 that they sometimes sleep at work as shifts start early or finish late, and they can’t afford private transport.
“We sacrifice a lot, so passengers can be on time,” she said. — Fin 24