Nationwide strike looming in South Africa

 ·14 Feb 2024

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) has threatened a nationwide strike after wage talks reached a deadlock with employers.

First submitted in December 2023, the trade union made three core demands to be implemented across the bus passenger sector:

  • Primary health care – full compulsory healthcare for all workers in the industry, subject to qualifying exemptions. Employer contributes 50%, and worker contributes 50%;
  • Increase in the allowance for the double driver* from R450 to R900. (Drivers do, on average, 18 trips per month; this then represents about R25-00 per trip); and
  • A 10% wage increase across the board (During the course of negotiations, Numsa reduced its demand from 15% to 10%).

*A double driver is a second driver that accompanies another during long-distance or overnight commutes.

Numsa’s general secretary, Irvin Jim, announced the union had participated in wage talks from 5 to 9 February 2024 with the employer in the sector at the South African Road Passenger Bargaining Council (SARPBAC).

However, Jim explained that despite submitting their demands as early as December 2023, the bus bosses had come “unprepared” to respond to workers’ core demands.

These employers include Bus companies who are members of SARPBC, such as Putco, Bojanala’ Algoa, Great North Transport and others.

Numsa added that it was taken aback by the employer’s response during negotiations, which is offering a conditional 4% increase, and they demanded that the unions drop all other demands.

As a result, Numsa declared a dispute against employers, noting that the current agreement will expire on 31 March, and, therefore, “have no choice but to act quickly to try and resolve this round of wage talks”.

The union added it would be meeting with shop stewards in the bus passenger sector today (Wednesday, 14 February) to map the way forward.

“We demand that employers come back with a better offer; otherwise, if they fail, a national strike in the bus passenger sector is unavoidable,” it said – which would leave commuters reliant on bus operators stranded.

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