Bus drivers to strike as wage talks collapse

Algoa Bus
Algoa Bus
Image: Supplied/Algoa Bus Company

The Algoa Bus Company is suspending its services indefinitely from early Wednesday, when transport workers embark on a national strike following a deadlock in wage talks.

The suspension was announced yesterday by Algoa Bus chief executive Sicelo Duze.

“Wage negotiations at the South African Road Passenger Bargaining Council (SARPBC) are in a deadlock and labour has issued a strike notice informing employers that they will embark on a national strike action [tomorrow],” Duze said.

“The employers offered a three-year wage increase of 7% in year one, 7.25% in year two and 7.5% in year three. This has been rejected.”

He said all Algoa Bus services would thus be suspended until further notice.

“We sincerely apologise for any inconvenience caused,” Duze said.

Bargaining Council general secretary Gary Wilson said the strike would affect all big bus operators nationally, including long-distance bus services.

He said the unions involved in the wage negotiations were seeking increases of between 10% and 12% across the board.

They were also demanding annual wage negotiations instead of multi-year agreements.

“We will do everything in our power to minimise the impact of the strike,” Wilson said.

“We have approached the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) to intervene as a matter of urgency.”

He said CCMA intervention in the past had proved successful.

Asked how long he expected the strike to last, Wilson said the strikes over the past few years had not lasted more than five days.

Klaus Heimes, president of the Port Elizabeth-based South African Bus Employers’ Association executive committee, said it was difficult to say how long the strike would last.

“In my experience of past labour actions, it could last three days or some weeks,” he said.

“The wages are the one issue and the duration of the wage agreements is the other.

“The unions want to negotiate wages on a yearly basis, while the employers would prefer a three-year wage cycle agreement.

“This gives employers labour stability and gives companies the ability to develop and implement plans over the longer term.”

Heimes said considering present economic conditions and the current inflation rate, he did not believe the 12% demanded by the unions was attainable.

“The negotiations are also complicated by the number of unions involved,” he said.

“There are five unions represented and there is competition among the unions.”

Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality spokesman Kupido Baron was unable to say last night whether the city’s newly introduced IPTS bus system would be affected by the strike.