Bus Workers March Through Johannesburg

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DESPITE the urging of the Cosatu trade union federation to end their bus strike, thousands of striking bus drivers marched through the streets of Johannesburg on Tuesday morning to demand a wage increase.

‘Our members came in droves to make employers aware that we mean business.

‘We are not backing down from the double digit wage increase,’ said SA Transport and Allied Workers’ Union (Satawu) spokesperson Vincent Masoga.

Bus drivers are on strike countrywide. The strike, which has entered its third week, has affected commuters.

Unions are demanding a 13% wage increase – down from 18% – and allowances for housing, nightshift, and long-distance journeys.

Talks between the unions and employers at the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation, and Arbitration (CCMA) are expected to resume this week.

Masoga said the bus drivers intend to march to the transport and road freight bargaining council in Braamfontein to hand over a memorandum of their demands.

They would then proceed to the city centre and hand over another memorandum at the offices of the private security sector provident fund.

‘The fund has been exploiting workers for years…. Workers contribute to the fund, but get almost nothing from the fund which is supposed to look after their interests’ said Masoga.

The SA Police Service and members of the metro police directed and monitored the march.

Meanwhile, workers at waste management company Pikitup were not on strike but merely holding a meeting and singing outside the company’s head office, their union said on Monday.

The workers have been attacked by the media for taking an illegal strike action and faced threats of court action.

‘There has been a misunderstanding on the side of management, who said the workers were on strike… they held a meeting with the union and later sang slogans outside the building,’ SA Municipal Workers’ Union spokesperson Tahir Sema said.

Most of the employees would return to their workplaces.

‘We will attempt to resolve these issues with management as soon as possible.

‘If management agrees, we will be meeting them in the coming weeks to finalise workers’ legitimate workplace concerns.’

Pikitup said earlier on Monday that only a fraction of their workers turned up for work in the morning.

Most of them were demonstrating outside the company’s headquarters, spokesperson Desiree Ntshingila said.

At the weekend the company obtained a court interdict to stop the strike, which it considered illegal.

Ntshingila said they would meet with unions on Monday afternoon.

Workers’ grievances included the implementation of biometric access control, breathalyser tests for drivers, and transport for workers.

In a statement on Sunday, Pikitup said the current transport system for workers was not sustainable and a new solution was needed.

‘Previously, Pikitup employees requiring transportation were picked up and dropped off at central points on a daily basis, using Pikitup trucks,’ managing director Amanda Nair said in a statement.

Sema said workers were not happy with Pikitup’s biometric clock-in system and the apparent lack of consultation about its implementation.

‘Workers want the employer to provide travel arrangements, and they are not happy that the management took away the half-day off they were given once a month, as a result of overtime work.’

• Meanwhile the National Education, Health and Allied Workers Trade Union (NEHAWU) has called for the withdrawal of charges against Wits University Students.

NEHAWU has condemned the decision by the University of Witwatersrand’s management to charge 11 students for protesting against an Israeli embassy sponsored concert.

‘We call for the immediate withdrawal of all charges against these students.

‘On the 12th of March 2013, a number of students, led by the university’s Student Representative Council (SRC), held a non-violent protest action in opposition to the university’s decision to host an Israeli pianist Yossi Reshef at the university’s theatre.

The hosting of the concert was a violation of the cultural boycott of Israel as well as the Wits University SRC’s support for and endorsement of the cultural boycott of Israel.

This concert was backed by the Israeli-embassy and endorsed by the Zionist lobby groups.

The NEHAWU Secretariat Office stated: ‘We are deeply disturbed that the university management has decided to appease the Zionist lobby and the apologists of the apartheid state of Israel by instituting disciplinary action against the students that protested.

‘Wits University has shamelessly sacrificed its independence, compromised its reputation and demonstrated a disconcerting level of intolerance by censoring and silencing dissenting voices.

‘The university’s tyrannical intimidation of university stakeholders, who hold a different view and speak truth to power, is a sad chapter in a country that benefited from international solidarity during the darkest days of apartheid.

‘What is even more disturbing, is the fact that the university has been using strong arm tactics through private security firms and the police to silence and intimidate staff and students of late.

‘NEHAWU calls for an investigation of the allegations that students were subjected to racial profiling, physical assault and racial insults during the protests.

‘These disturbing allegations cannot be ignored and we call on the law enforcement agencies and the department of Higher Education and Training to ascertain what happened and holds those responsible to account.

‘We expect our universities to be exemplary and to cultivate critical leaders and thinkers, who respect the rights of others and possess moral courage in the face of injustice and terror.

‘Intimidation and victimisation builds and achieves nothing as demonstrated by the old South African apartheid government.

‘We do not expect our universities to resort to antiquated apartheid tactics and inhumane methods to stifle debate and censor dissent.’