The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) condemns employers in the bus sector for causing a breakdown in CCMA negotiations.
The sector has been brought to a standstill because workers have are on an indefinite strike to protest against the shocking working conditions in the sector. Furthermore Employers in the sector have insulted workers and commuters by refusing to engage meaningfully during the CCMA sponsored mediation. Their intransigent and inflexible attitude has caused mediation talks to break down.
Talks between unions and employers broke down on Friday because the bosses presented an offer which we cannot take to our members. They offered a multi-year agreement of two years with an 8% salary increase for the first year, and then an 8.5% in the second year. The condition for accepting this proposal was that unions had to drop all other core demands, including the demand that the second driver be paid for all the time he spends on the bus. The bosses have also rejected the demand for workers to be paid a night shift allowance as defined by the Basic Conditions of Employment Act as well as the demand to end outsourcing.
They gave us no reason to accept these backward proposals. In fact they want us to legitimize their criminal behavior of denying workers’ wages which are due to them! As NUMSA we reject this proposal with the contempt it deserves.
EMPLOYERS IN THE SECTOR ABUSE WORKERS IN THE FOLLOWING WAYS:
- Bus drivers are often forced to sleep on buses because the employers refuse to pay a genuine subsistence and travel allowance (S&T) for workers who drive long distance. They are given a meagre R595 to cover for food and accommodation. The lack of proper sleep has an impact on road safety. It is a fact that if you do not get proper rest you will be a danger on the roads. The abusive attitude of the bosses in the sector is partly to blame for the high rate of accidents in the transportation sector!
- Employers in the sector want to continue to abuse the alternative driver on long distance trips by denying them their full wages. The alternative driver is only paid his full salary when he is behind the steering wheel of a bus, but for the journey to the destination he is only given R400 as an allowance. This is unacceptable! Drivers are not on holiday, but the employer whilst they are at work inside the bus, treats them as if they are at home. And if the bus were to get involved in an accident he is on his own and he is not paid for being exposed to this risk. These drivers are at work. We demand that they be paid in full for their services!
- Bosses in the sector refuse to pay workers a living wage. We have made an un-mandated offer, which is a product of negotiations. This was an offer which we were convinced we could sell to convince our members to settle the strike. The offer is 9.5% for the first year and 9% for the second year. This means we have moved from the original demand of 12% and a one year agreement to offering the employers the possibility of a two year agreement, which would have delivered much needed stability in the industry. But the bosses stubbornly refuse to give an inch in return!
BOSSES IN THE SECTOR ARE RACIST AND REFUSE TO TRANSFORM
It is shameful that some of the issues we fought for last year continue to be a problem this year. The bosses in the sector refuse to transform. They are racist and they truly believe that African labour must be exploited and abused. They treat their pets at home with more respect than they treat ordinary workers in the sector.
It is disgraceful that 24 years after Apartheid was defeated workers continue to suffer in this way. This is because our government is complicit in allowing employers to abuse workers. They have done nothing to intervene directly in the sector in the interests of workers. These companies get millions in subsidies from the state, but there are no repercussions for the way that these racist bosses frustrate and humiliate workers every single day.
IF THE LABOUR LAW IS CHANGED WORKERS IN THE BUS SECTOR WILL NEVER AGAIN BE ABLE TO GO ON STRIKE
Furthermore, our government is helping bosses to attack workers by changing the labour laws to prevent them from going on strike. If government gets its way, workers in the bus sector will never again be able to go on a legal strike because the compulsory balloting process will make it impossible for workers to strike.
Our government is also helping the bosses to attack workers by proposing a poverty national minimum wage of R20 per hour. This poverty national minimum wage bill is the reason that employers in the sector refuse to give into demands for a living wage. Bus companies get millions in subsidies from the state every year, and they also make millions in profits annually. But they want workers to continue to suffer by paying them low wages.
The only way to force these cruel and immoral bosses from continuing to abuse workers is for us to withdraw our labour. The only thing they care about is their bottom line, and we must hit them where it hurts.
WE CALL ON WORKERS TO INTENSIFY THE STRIKE IN THE BUS SECTOR!
To our members and the workers in the sector who are on strike we want to say we honour you for your courage and your determination to fight for a living wage and a dignified life. You have given up your incomes in order to guarantee a better life for your children and also for the next generation of workers. We thank you for the discipline and militancy which you have demonstrated during the course of the strike. We call on all of you to intensify the strike. The only language these ruthless bosses understand is when their profits are hit hard.
We wish to once again express our apologies to the commuters for the inconvenience caused by the strike. We were forced into striking because it is the best weapon we have to force these cold-blooded bosses to treat workers like human beings. We hope the sacrifices we are all making will not be in vain.
JOINT STATEMENT BUS STRIKE
The struggle continues!
Issued by Irvin Jim
NUMSA General Secretary
For more information contact:
NUMSA National Spokesperson (Acting)