Commuters nationwide may be stranded over the long weekend if the trade union Numsa continues with its threats to strike.
Numsa warns that a national strike in the passenger bus sector may still take place before the Easter weekend if employers do not table a sensible offer for an increase and medical benefits.
“We appeal to communities to make alternative plans for the long weekend, because the strike will likely disrupt services. We proposed an urgent meeting with employers, preferably within the next 48 hours. The ball is in their hands to avert this disaster.”
Numsa says the union has been trying to negotiate with employers through the South African Road Passenger Bargaining Council (SARPBAC) since the beginning of the year and that it declared a dispute in February. The employers are represented by the Commuter Bus Employers Organization (COBEA) and the South African Bus Employers Association (SABEA).
However, according to Numsa, employers flat-out refuse to give employees a meaningful increase. Employers also apparently do not have any medical benefits.
“The issue that the [moontlike] what fueled the strike is that the employers are refusing to negotiate on medical benefits,” said Numsa’s national spokesperson, Phakamile Hlubi-Majola.
Numsa has already obtained a certificate to strike and is threatening to enforce it nationally if employers do not change their tune soon.
The only proposal currently on the table was apparently proposed by the mediators.
This includes a two-year agreement from 1 April 2023 to 31 March 2025, an annual increase of 7% on the minimum wage and a 7% increase on all allowances that employees receive for the next two years. With regard to medical benefits, mediators request that the issue be dealt with within each company and not negotiated by the National Bargaining Forum (NBF).
“We want to say in advance that the mediator’s proposal does not reflect the position of the majority of trade unions,” said Hlubi-Majola.
“Numsa is the majority union in the passenger bus sector and we did not endorse the proposal. However, despite our reservations about how this was done, we welcome the opportunity to introduce the proposal [by onderhandelings] to involve and hope that we can make adjustments to it so that it meets more of our demands.”
According to Numsa, employers made an offer directly to employees for an increase of 6% for three years. This proposal is, however, on the condition that employees abandon their requests for medical funds and medical insurance.
“Employers have not tabled it at the NBF, which is the formally recognized structure for negotiations. This is because they do not respect centralized bargaining and they want to undermine the NBF at every turn. Employers must be condemned for that and in light of this we reject their proposal.
“Medical insurance is a matter of life and death for our members, the majority of whom cannot afford a medical fund on their salaries. The lowest paid workers earn on average around R7 800 per month, therefore a medical fund is unaffordable.”
Hlubi-Majola further says that it is a known fact that public hospitals and clinics are collapsing and the union is therefore demanding medical benefits in the private health sector.
“While we understand that many commuters will be inconvenienced by the strike, we urge them to direct their frustrations to COBEA and SABEA.”
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