Workers in the freight sector belonging to the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu) march through the Durban central business district. File Picture: REUTERS
Workers in the freight sector belonging to the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu) march through the Durban central business district. File Picture: REUTERS

Disgruntled employees of state-owned bus company Autopax will get the rest of their salaries on Wednesday, the SA Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu) says.

The cash-strapped company, which operates City to City and Translux buses, announced at the weekend that it would pay its 1,071 employees 50% of their January salaries due to financial challenges. Autopax is a subsidiary of the Passenger Rail Agency of SA, which transport minister Fikile Mbalula has described as a broken organisation.

In a staff notice, Autopax CEO Tiro Holele lays bare the dire financial state of the company.

“On Monday we will unfortunately not be able to meet the full salary obligations for the month of January and have managed through the operation to collect some funds from fare revenue to pay you 50% of what is due,” he wrote.

Satawu spokesperson Zanele Sabela told Business Day on Tuesday that the union was encouraged by the latest development, but said it wanted a meeting with Autopax’s  management to talk about the company’s turnaround strategy.

On Monday Sabela ruled out a strike at Autopax, saying it would be irresponsible for union members to down tools over salaries.

Satawu feared that could have similar repercussions to SAA’s wage strike in November that subsequently led to the company being placed under business rescue. The weeklong strike by the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa), and the SA Cabin Crew Association cost the state-owned airline about R50m a day.

Sabela said Holele sent out a note on Monday after meeting shop stewards and stating that the rest of staff salaries would be paid by Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Numsa spokesperson Phakamile Hlubi-Majola said this was not the first time Autpopax has failed to pay salaries on time, saying they were delayed in October and November last year, while only half of bonuses were initially paid, and then settled five days later. This has created anxiety among workers, she said.

“Our members are frustrated and angry because they are committed to their work, they show up [to work] every day and they put 100% effort into their duties, but the company responds by paying them only half of what is due them.”

mkentanel@businesslive.co.za