Pretoria – Gautrain workers affiliated to the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) downed tools in protest for increased wages amid a negotiations deadlock.
The workers from various Gautrain stations and offices travelled to Midrand to demonstrate outside the offices of the Bombela Operating Company, who manage Gautrain services.
The union said the company sparked the strike action when it “imposed” a 4.1% salary increase and opted out of negotiations where the union was demanding at least 8% to help its workers cope with tough times.
Numsa spokesperson Phakamile Hlubi-Majola said: “We were in the midst of wage talks, they cut the wage talk short and said they were no longer interested in negotiating.
“They emailed us the offer of 4.1% and then said this is our final offer, we are no longer negotiating anymore, take it or leave it. It was that stubborn attitude that sparked this strike.
“If you think about it there is not a big gap between 4% and 8% and we therefore feel that we can find each other somewhere in the middle, but we need an opportunity to sit around a table and engage.
“The management of Gautrain does not want to give us that opportunity. They refused any engagement and they have told us that we must simply accept the offer and that’s it.
“For us that is not acceptable and that is why we are here protesting. Part of that has to do with our intention to cover the lowest earning workers who earn R8 500 a month. We believe an 8% increase would be far more meaningful than a 4%”
The union said it was willing to engage, compromise and come to a resolution just as long as the company is willing to do the same to avoid the strike going on for longer than necessary.
“This is day one of the strike and our goal is to intensify the strike every single day. We are hoping to convince all the members to join us and to join the strike so that we can convince the management of Gautrain to come to the table and negotiate meaningfully.
“We are not unreasonable, even if a company is under financial distress, they still have a duty to consult and negotiate meaningfully. No company has the right to just simply impose changes on the workforce.
The Gautrain spokesperson said Numsa’s demand would actually equate to 26%, leaving the company making contingency plans to ensure we can still deliver a train service to our passengers during the strike action.
She said security measures have been implemented on the Gautrain system and the safety of our passengers will not be compromised.
During the morning and afternoon peak periods, trains will be available every 30 minutes on both the North-South and East-West lines. The morning peak period is between 5.30am and 9am and the afternoon peak period is between 3pm and 7pm.