Bus strike: Fresh hope as unions, employers head back to negotiating table

There was fresh hope for commuters dealing with Day 15 of the national bus strike, as unions and employers agreed to meet again to try and break the deadlock, the SA Road Passenger Bargaining Council (SARPBC) said on Wednesday.

'It's D-Day," said SARPBC secretary general Gary Wilson, explaining that a meeting was set for 10:00 on Thursday in Gauteng.

SA Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu) spokesperson Zanele Sabela told News24 that, after being given an ultimatum last week by employers that they should accept the latest offer, or the lower one would kick in again, talks had broken down.

The last offer before the ultimatum was a 9% increase for the first year, and 8% for the second year.

READ: Nzimande, Oliphant fail to end bus strike as bosses hold firm

On Thursday last week, News24 reported that companies were threatening to revert to their original wage offer of 8% for this year and 8.5% for 2019.

This was in spite of intervention by the ministers of labour and transport, Mildred Oliphant and Blade Nzimande.

"Obviously that was an ultimatum," Sabela said.

However, the union met on Monday to discuss the situation, and wrote to the SARPBC to ask the secretary general to convene a meeting between the parties again.

'It's getting out of hand'

Transport and Omnibus Workers Union (Towu) general secretary Tony Franks told News24: "We want to resolve it. The public have a right to get the service."

Towu represents mainly Golden Arrow Bus Services drivers and bus engineers in Cape Town, he said.

Franks said that workers had already come down from their demand of a 12% salary increase.

The biggest sticking points, he explained, were the half a percentage point, and the employers' push for the increase to start on May 1, not April 1.

In the meantime, Wilson expressed concern over attacks on some buses.

"It's getting out of hand," he said, adding that he hoped that Thursday's talks would not just be a repetition of previous positions.

"Both sides, in fact, have to come with an open mind."

In the meantime, bus companies affected by the strike have continued informing their customers that there is still no service.