South Africa

Easter weekend strike warning for South Africa

Wage negotiations between unions and bus companies are deadlocked and could lead to a nationwide strike if not resolved before the end of March.

This is according to Numsa spokesperson Phakamile Hlubi-Majola, who told Newzroom Afrika that the organisation may be pushed to start a nationwide strike at the end of March if the negotiating parties cannot find a compromise.

“We are renegotiating a new wage agreement. This wage agreement will expire at the end of March, so we are trying to do our utmost to try and find one another before that wage agreement lapses at the end of March,” she said.

“We did start early – we submitted our demands in December of 2023 because we did not want to have any delays in this process.” 

Numsa put three big ‘core’ demands on the table in its negotiations with companies like Putco, Algoa Bus Company, and Great North Transport.

The first is the demand for primary healthcare, meaning medical aid or medical insurance coverage for workers in the passenger bus sector. 

“This has never happened before, and it’s been a demand since 2019,” Hlubi-Majola said. 

The second demand is a 10% across-the-board wage increase. 

The third is an increase in the allowance of double drivers from R450 to R900. A double driver is the second driver accompanying a main driver on a long-distance trip.

Currently, negotiations between the parties are deadlocked following the first round of negotiations that took place over five days from 5 February to 8 February.

“Unfortunately, by the end of that segment, we realized we were very far from each other,” Hlubi-Majola said. 

“Even though I’ve outlined our demands for you, the employer is only willing to put a 4% increase on the table, and that increase is conditional on unions dropping all other demands.” 

“So, that for us is a major setback because it shows us that the employer is not taking some of the issues that we’ve raised seriously, and we are now at the point where we have registered a dispute because we have deadlocked on these issues.”

The union was asked to extend the first round of wage negotiations, but this request was rejected.

Hlubi-Majola said this is because the union purposely started the negotiation early to avoid delays, and despite this, the companies did not come to the negotiations prepared.

“It’s as if they’re not taking this process seriously; it’s as if they want to try and delay unnecessarily, and we’re not prepared to delay,” she said. 

“We need to settle this round of negotiations, and we need to do so soon. March is around the corner, and the agreement is going to expire. Our members were adamant that we must make real progress in the five days we were allocated.”

Numsa is now waiting for conciliation and hopes that during this process, “the employers will bring a meaningful offer to the table”. 

“We also want to get members a mandate about how far we can go. So, for example, what would be sort of the line regarding the non-negotiables or how far we can push it before we have to resort to strike action,” she said. 

“We hope we don’t have to resort to strike action because, as you know, workers really do suffer during a strike, and so do commuters.”

She said these negotiations involve a sector that covers hundreds of bus companies that transport millions of workers across the country. 

She added that it is not unusual for Numsa members to embark on a national strike during the Easter long weekend in March, “and we don’t want to be forced into a corner where we have to do that”. 

“We know that this holiday is one of great meaning to the majority of workers in this country,” she said.

“However, we really think that the employers should not put us into a corner where we’re forced to resort to such measures.” 

“It’s completely unacceptable that the only thing they could put on the table in response to our comprehensive, reasonable demand was a 4% increase and nothing more. We think they can do much better, and we are calling on them to do just that.”


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