Bus users feel strike’s pinch

Commuters forced to take more expensive transport as industry action drags on

Algoa Bus
Algoa Bus
Image: Supplied/Algoa Bus Company

With no end in sight to the national bus strike, Nelson Mandela Bay commuters are struggling to deal with the strain on their pockets.

The strike has left commuters across the country stranded.

The action was triggered by the deadlocking of wage negotiations in the industry last month.

The deadlock was followed by negotiations with employers mediated by the Commission for Conciliation‚ Mediation and Arbitration, which also broke down.

Aseza Ndaliso, 35, of Kwazakhele, who uses the Algoa Bus service, said the cost of alternative transport was becoming a big financial burden.

Ndaliso normally spends R250 a month on bus fare but has already spent R270 since the strike started on April 18.

“I have been forced to use taxis, which is more expensive and I did not budget for this.”

Ramona Kiewiets, 34, of KwaDwesi, said she had to wake up earlier as the taxis filled up fast.

“Due to the sudden influx of people you have to take two taxis now as some drivers are refusing to go to town directly,” Kiewiets said.

Phumelele Dyani, 77, of Uitenhage, said he was worried about his safety as the buses dropped him off closer to his home than the taxis did.

“I have to walk a kilometre to catch a taxi, while a bus used to pick up and drop off closer to my house,” Dyani said.

“I am worried because winter is approaching and it will be darker earlier – I fear getting robbed.”

Dyani’s transport costs have gone up considerably since the strike started.
“It costs R13.50 to go from Uitenhage to Port Elizabeth with the bus but it now costs R21 with the taxi,” he said.

Drivers from at least 10 companies, including Algoa Bus Company, downed tools on April 18, demanding a 12% pay hike.

The unions then dropped their demands to a 9.5% increase in the first year and 9% in the second. But the companies offered 8% in the first year and 8.5% in the second year. Other demands include: ý Alternative drivers be paid in full while travelling;

ý A subsistence allowance for drivers on long-distance trips; and ý A night-shift allowance. Transport Minister Blade Nzimande said he was concerned about the effects on commuters across the country.

“The labour minister [Mildred Oliphant] and I spent close to five hours on Thursday in a bid to hear the sides of the employers and trade unions.

“We left the meeting under the impression that their differences have been narrowed and therefore they will be able to sit and find each other,” Nzimande said

He was in Port Elizabeth yesterday for a road safety campaign in partnership with the Road Accident Fund.

“What is also a concern is the inconvenience being caused to commuters who use those buses.

“Some of them have got monthly tickets but have to now use alternative transport.

“We are still pushing both sides to have it resolved,” he said.

National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) spokeswoman Phakamile Hlubi-Majola said the strike would continue.

“The strike will continue until the employers demonstrate they are serious about negotiating.

“They need to put an offer on the table that our members will accept,” Hlubi-Majola said.

She said the unions met yesterday to discuss a way forward and the outcome would be made public later this week.