Commuters woke up to an endless line of people trying to pile into taxi's as the bus strike commenced at 5 am yesterday morning over wage disputes. The strike intensified, involving over 50 bus companies including MyCiTi, Rea Vaya and Gautrain buses as well as Greyhound, Buscor and Mphakathi in Mpumalanga, Bojanala in the North West, Mayibuye in East London, Go George in George, Areyeng in Tshwane and Lowveld Bus Company in Limpopo.
Bus stations across Johannesburg, Cape Town and Kwazulu-Natal had people either overfilling taxi's or simply left stranded with no option to commute. Students at the University of Johannesburg, who generally rely heavily on Mega Bus buses for transport, needed to find other forms of transport. School children were also stuck in long queues in Nelson Mandela Bay as they tried to make their way to school.
Bus drivers are demanding a 12% increase across the board but, after only being offered 7% by their employers, mobilised a strike affecting 80% of the country's passenger buses. South African Road Passenger Bargaining Council (SARPBC) found themselves in a deadlock with bus companies after negotiations, to which the workers responded by issuing a strike notice. The Minister of Transport, Blade Nzimande, said that all parties involved in the negotiations needed to urgently find a negotiated settlement, "The only reasonable outcome that government expects from the negotiations, is the immediate resumption of bus operations, whilst labour and employers are finding a permanent solution to the impasse."
The SA Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu) shop steward for Rea Vaya, Phanuel Mbhombi, spoke to News24, saying, "We are waiting for labour and management to go back to the negotiation table. This is a lock-out strike. All companies have locked out the premises. That is why we are outside."
Golden Arrow Bus Services also made a statement and said negotiations were still taking place and it would stay "hopeful that an agreement can still be reached. Golden Arrow will institute a company-wide lock-out in order to ensure the safety of our passengers and staff for the duration of the strike."
The workers have expressed their dissatisfaction at the 7.5% increase they have been offered for 3 years and vow to strike until their demands are met. They are also demanding that bus drivers who travel long distances should be provided with a subsistence payment for journeys where they have to sleep out.
In Nelson Mandela bay, the Algoa Bay Bus company and the Libongulethu Integrated Public Transport System (IPTS) shut down all its services. Marlon Daniels, member of the transport mayoral committee, said that suspending Libongulethu IPTS services was due to safety measures and not with the intention to take part in the strike, it is considering continuing the service today (Thursday) pending the negotiation outcome.
While the bus companies assure the public that they have resorted to striking as a last effort, they don't intend to back down.