Picture: SUPPLIED
Picture: SUPPLIED

Bus services across the country could come to a grinding halt ahead of the busy Easter period should the unions representing employees in the sector elect to down tools over wages.

Upcoming national holidays, such as Easter and the independence celebrations, could see a lot of holidaymakers who rely on public transport stranded.

The strike would be industry-wide and affect employers under the SA Road Passenger Bargaining Council (Sarpbc), which include commuter, long-distance and cross-border bus companies.

The SA Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu) is among unions that were given a certificate of non-resolution on Thursday following a four-day mediation process with employer organisations in the bargaining council that failed to produce a wage agreement.

The unions are demanding a one-year, 8.5% wage increase for employees earning between R56.30 and R78.82 an hour and 7.5% for those earning more than R78.82 an hour.

However, the employers have tabled a proposal for a three-year wage deal that would see the first group getting a 6% increase in the first year, and 5.5% for the second and third years. For the second group, employers have proposed a 4.5% increase for each of the three years.

Satawu national spokesperson Zanele Sabela said the employers’ proposal is what caused the deadlock. She said labour is also demanding the introduction of an industry medical aid “but employers have refused citing exorbitant costs”.

Regarding the certificates of non-resolution, Sabela said the parties would now observe a 30-day cooling-off period during which they could engage if they choose to.

“A meeting to break the impasse is already set for March 30 to April 1. Should parties fail to settle, unions will serve [a] 48-hour notice of strike any time after April 4, which is when the cooling-off period expires.”

mkentanel@businesslive.co.za