The big guns were called in on Thursday in a bid to try to bring an end to the national bus strike as it entered its ninth day.

Transport Minister Dr Blade Nzimande and Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant met with bus companies and striking labour unions on Thursday at the Garden Court close to OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg to try to bring some relief for commuters on passengers.

Department of Transport spokesperson Ishmael Mnisi said in a statement that the ministers had noted that both parties were "determined to resolve the impasse swiftly with concessions already made from the original positions held by both parties prior to the negotiations".

"Both ministers called on all parties involved to find a negotiated settlement under the allowable rules and regulations in the interest of all South Africans.

"Whilst the ministers are not party to the negotiations‚ the only reasonable outcome that they expect from the negotiations is the immediate resumption of bus operations‚ whilst labour and employers are finding a permanent solution to the impasse‚" Mnisi said.

Three mediators from the Commission for Conciliation‚ Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) are also taking part in the meetings.

South African Road Passenger Bargaining Council’s (SARPBAC’s) John Dammert said that on Wednesday bus companies had offered a 9% wage increase from May this year to March next year and a 8% increase from April next year to March 2020.

They proposed that a smaller committee resolve four outstanding issues within 30 days. These issues are the night shift allowance‚ dual bus driver payment‚ insourcing and wages for articulated buses.

Labour unions want night shifts to change from 8pm-3am to 6pm-6am. They want both drivers to be paid on long distance trips if they are driving or not.

Bus companies currently have service deals with the companies they buy the buses from to service and clean the buses as part of the sale terms. Labour unions want those services to be insourced.

Dammert said bus companies were in a squeeze‚ because of rising operating costs.

"The majority of the commuters that bus companies provide services to‚ come from the lower end of the LSM (living standard measure) market. It is very difficult to pass on those increases to the passenger without customers reacting violently to fair increases."

Dammert said bus companies might have to cancel services or retrench employees to reduce their operational costs.