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The Gautrain. Picture: SUPPLIED
The Gautrain. Picture: SUPPLIED

Gautrain operator Bombela Operating Company (BOC) says it has noted increasing “return to work” requests by striking workers affiliated to the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa), which has been on strike since Monday in demand of above-inflation wage increases. 

“While BOC respects the rights of employees to engage in industrial action, we believe it is vital to also highlight the potential financial repercussions that prolonged strike action can have on them and the company,” BOC corporate communications manager Lebogang Tsotetsi said. 

“As such, it is in our interest and that of our employees to collaboratively find a resolution to this impasse.”

BOC is a private company contracted by Bombela Concession Company (BCC) to operate and maintain the Gautrain systems. 

The company has more than 500 direct employees, with 271 affiliated to Numsa and of those “only 127 voted in favour of the current strike action”, Tsotetsi said.

BOC welcomed the invitation by the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) — the country’s labour dispute resolution body — to assist in reaching a mutually beneficial agreement, she said.

Numsa has since revised its wage demand to a 9% increase (from 13%), still above the 5.2% inflation rate recorded in April and May. 

Tsotetsi said in a statement the BOC has made concerted efforts to reach an equitable solution and tabled an offer reflecting three scenarios, “all of which are above CPI (the highest across the board increase being 6.5% with allowances increasing at CPI or higher)”. 

“Over and above what is on the demand list from Numsa, BOC offers employees a market-related salary, a guaranteed 13th cheque, incentive bonus, medical aid, education assistance, and tertiary bursary support for employees’ children, among other benefits,” she said. “BOC does not provide employees with a guaranteed bonus at all employee levels. Instead, bonuses are tied to performance objectives.” 

Numsa spokesperson Phakamile Hlubi-Majola said the union did not think its demands were unreasonable, as the lowest-paid worker earned R8,000 a month “without any benefits”. 

“The cost of living is extremely high if one factors in the petrol price, and that the average food basket costs over R5,300. However, Gautrain receives R2bn in subsidies from the state every year.” 

Tsotetsi said: “BOC does not receive any government subsidy, as it provides a service to its client, BCC, which then compensates it accordingly for services rendered.” 

Hlubi-Majola said Gautrain management rewarded itself with R22,000 in bonuses, but blue-collar workers were denied the incentive. “This is unfair and it is part of the reason our members are on strike. It is against this backdrop that workers rejected the bosses wage offer ... because this is way below inflation.”

Numsa has also agreed to participate in the CCMA process to try to break the wage impasse. 

“We call on all parties to work with the union so that an amicable resolution to the strike can be found,” Hlubi-Majola said.“We have always said the door to engagement remains open. However, as long as a meaningful offer has not been placed on the table by the employer the strike will continue indefinitely.” 

Correction: July 11 2024
This story now says Lebogang Tsotetsi is BOC corporate communications manager.

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