#BusStrike: A day in the life of a long-haul bus driver

Sipho* is 45-years-old and a long-haul bus driver on the Johannesburg-Pietermaritzburg-Mthatha route. He has been doing this job for more than 10 years, reported GroundUp.

On April 18, he joined the bus strike, which has entered its third week.

Sipho says he earns about R10 000 a month. A father of four, he is struggling to pay school fees for his two children and he has had to withdraw his two older children from a tertiary institution because he cannot cover their costs. His wife is unemployed.

Sipho says he doesn't get to spend time with his family in Mthatha.

READ: Commuters face another hard week as nationwide bus strike continues

"Sometimes I arrive in Johannesburg in the morning … Then I get a call that I am off [that day]. This doesn't give me time to plan my day. I just end up going to the place where the company pays for accommodation to eat and wash … The following day I will be on duty."

He says there isn't a proper duty roster; he never knows ahead of time when he will be off duty.

He also says his employer only pays for the hours he drives the bus. He starts at 06:00 inspecting and loading the bus, and helping passengers to check in. But the employer only pays from 08:00, when he starts driving.

Again, at the end of the journey, at about 03:00, he helps with offloading, picking up litter, and attending to passengers, which can carry on until 06:00. The employer does not compensate him for this time either.


Khayelitsha commuters wait for taxis during the bus strike. (Barry Christianson, Groundup)

There are two drivers on the journey, who share the driving.

"I get R400 allowance [for being on the road], which I [have to] share with the other driver," he said.

GroundUp contacted the employer, but the company refused to comment.

On Thursday, he looked forward to the wage negotiations. He hoped the employer would agree to at least a 10% increase, even though he wants, and the union initially demanded, 12%.

Zanele Sabela‚ spokesperson for the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu), said on Thursday: "Employers made good on their threat to revert back to the [CCMA] mediator's proposal of 8% for the first year and 8.5% for the second year."

READ MORE: 'The bus strike was the last resort' - Satawu

On Thursday evening, a press statement by bus companies said that "negotiations have once again collapsed and unions have indicated that they will revert to their previous demand of a 12% increase".

It said the industry average wage for a bus driver was R16 000, about the same as the average monthly salary for high school teachers.

The average annual wage increase in the bus industry over the last 10 years was 9.22%.

However, the website payscale.com gives the median bus driver monthly salary as R8 570 per month.

*Not his real name