Strike irks bus commuters

Union says it’s up to employers to end industrial action, writes Hendrick Mphande 

As the nationwide bus driver strike intensifies, several Nelson Mandela Bay commuters have spoken of their anger at having to board taxis for their long distance trips.

The strike entered its second day on Thursday and the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) said it was up to the respective employers to put an end to it.

A visibly dejected Nonceba Quza, 57, of Motherwell, said she had booked a Translux bus ticket last month hoping to leave for Cape Town for the Easter weekend. “When I got here [Greenacres office], I was told the buses were on strike. My sister is very sick. I have to get into a taxi although I am very scared to travel in taxis because they drive dangerously.

“I guess I do not have a choice. This is very absurd,” Quza said.

Although some commuters received SMS notifications to collect their refunds, this was not the case with Quza, she said. Marvin Zungu, 27, opted to take a taxi to Durban on Thursday. He said he had received an SMS the night before from Translux notifying him to collect his refund because buses were not transporting any passengers.

“I am here hoping to board a taxi. I am going to Durban for a church ser vice,” Zungu, who was waiting at the Strand Street taxi rank, said. “I am very worried because I do not know whether I will get there in time. The bus strike is now hurting innocent passengers,” he said.

Lindile Mokete, 38, of Johannesburg was visiting Port Elizabeth. However, the strike caught her by surprise and she was unable to return home by bus. She, too, was at the Strand Street taxi rank, hoping for space to get back home.

“This will be the first time that I have had to take a taxi on a longdistance trip. How can they go on strike during the busy period of the year?” she asked Port Elizabeth and District Taxi Association (Pedta) vice-chairman Xolile Matina said his association was inundated with demands for taxis travelling long distances.

“I am actually surprised. This rank normally does not have such a demand for taxis travelling to Johannesburg, but this time around is different,” he said.

He emphasised the importance of safety for passengers and roadworthy vehicles transporting commuters. Numsa’s acting national spokeswoman, Phakamile Hlubi, said the nationwide bus strike had entered its second day and that it was up to employers to end it.

“The ball is in their court to bring us an offer which will be acceptable‚” Hlubi said. “For now‚ the strike continues in full force.”

The offer tabled by employers on Wednesday was a 9% across-the board wage increase; overtime pay for drivers after working a 16-hour shift; a 10% night shift allowance increase; and a 10% cross-border allowance increase.

The union has rejected the offer.

“The fact that employers are not willing to offer a double-digit increase ‚ and are unwilling to pay the co-driver for his or her services when they are not driving, is simply a disgrace‚” Hlubi said.

The union vowed to intensify its strike action, and it criticised the proposal by employers to pay drivers overtime only after a shift of 16 hours had been worked.