Numsa warns of looming nationwide bus strike

Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim photograph: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency (ANA)

Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim photograph: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Feb 13, 2024


Commuters reliant on Putco, Bojanala, Algoa Bus, Great North Transport and other bus operators may soon be left stranded as the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) has threatened a nationwide strike after talks fell through with bus management.

The threat by the union came after it announced that they had reached a deadlock and declared a dispute against employers at the South African Road Passenger Bargaining Council (SARPBAC).

Irvin Jim, Numsa’s general secretary, said the union had participated in the first round of wage talks with the bargaining council from February 5–9.

Jim explained that despite having submitted their demands as early as December 2023, the bus bosses had come “unprepared” to respond to workers’ core demands.

The union is demanding a 10% salary increase across the board, after coming down from their initial request for a 15% increase.

In addition they have demanded full compulsory health care for all workers in the industry, subject to qualifying exemptions, where the employer would be expected to contribute 50% alongside workers 50% contribution.

Numsa has also demanded an increase in the allowance for the double driver from R450 to R900.

The general secretary however, said instead of coming fully prepared to address workers demands, the employers had only offered a conditional 4% increase, and demanded that the unions drop all other demands.

To make matters worse, Jim said members had requested that progress be made within five days, but employers tried to persuade them to extend the first round of wage talks, which they rejected.

“We are still far from each other. We also do not want to prolong negotiations unnecessarily. The reality is that the current agreement is going to expire on the 31st of March therefore we have no choice, but to act with speed to try and resolve this round of wage talks.

“This is why we decided to declare a dispute because it became clear that we are not finding each other on the demands outlined above and employers are not prepared to even respond to our core demands.”

Numsa has, following the breakdown of discussions, convened a meeting of shopstewards in the bus passenger sector for Wednesday (February 14) to map the way forward, while waiting for a date for conciliation in 30 days.

“We demand that employers must use this time and come back with a better offer, otherwise if they fail, a national strike in the bus passenger sector is unavoidable. We are aware that a strike will inconvenience passengers but we may be compelled to resort to such action if employers do not return with a decent offer on the table,” Jim said.

The Star