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Pic: greenpointgreenie

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Issued on behalf of the EMPLOYER PARTIES of the South African Road Passenger Bargaining Council (SARPBAC), being The South African Bus Employers Association (SABEA) & the Commuter Bus Employers Organisation (COBEO)

Employers have expressed their appreciation to the Ministers of Transport and Labour for convening a summit to find a way to reach settlement in the on-going bus strike. However, they also pointed out that it was regrettable that their intervention was required, which was mainly precipitated by the Labour caucus having discounted the mediation efforts and settlement proposals of the CCMA to broker an agreement to break the current stalemate.

Employers have confirmed their acceptance of the CCMA Mediators’ proposal of a 2 year agreement with an 8% increase in 2018 and an 8.5% increase in 2019. The proposed increases are across the board (ATB) on basic wages of existing employees, as well as industry minimum wages and all applicable allowances including Subsistence and travel, Cross-border, Night shift and Tool allowances.

While the Mediators’ proposal is far in excess of settlements in the mining (coal and iron ore), metals and local government sectors where three-year agreements ranging between 6-7,5% have recently been concluded, employers have committed to the offer as a means to reach settlement.

The Mediators’ proposal is 5% above the current level of CPI inflation (March 2018 CPI was 3.8%) and approximately 5% higher than increases to the Public Transport Operating Grants (PTOG) allocated by Treasury to subsidise road based public transport services.

SARPBAC Employees have over the last 10 years received average annual increases of 9% which have consistently been above the funding allocated by Treasury for bus contracts and far higher than inflation.

Concurrent with this, the industry has had to contend with a threefold increase in the price of diesel which is highly exposed to fluctuations in the rand / dollar exchange rate and the price of Brent crude.

‘With constrained subsidy support, the passenger will bear the brunt of the exorbitant salary increases which drivers are demanding. Our passengers come from low income communities and on average earn salaries which are three times less than that which drivers are demanding. It is really unfair that they have to bear the brunt of the inconvenience of the strike and the spectre of raised fares to appease the excessive wage demands that have been made.”

Bus companies have had to absorb cost escalations in the interest of maintaining affordability for their passengers who have limited mobility options and rely on the bus as their principal means of transport.

Regrettably, this has come at a cost since the largest bus company is currently in the process of retrenching 350 employees; a state owned Bus Company has applied for a bailout in order to meet its April salary obligations and a Pretoria based company has had to suspend services due to inadequate cash flows.

Employers have explained the precarious operational environment to the Ministers and to the Labour caucus during all of the exchanges that have taken place since negotiations commenced in January.

They have throughout the mediation process specifically appealed that Labour desists from their inflexible position and give due recognition to the real difficulties being experienced by companies.

Maintaining wage and salary levels at realistic levels is critical to the sustainability and survival of bus operations and agreeing to an ATB increase which is aligned to the consumer price index and affordability levels of the industry, is a prerequisite.

Employers are hopeful that in the public interest, Labour recognises the plea by the Ministers and the efforts of CCMA and consider the acceptance of their proposal to end the strike and settle the dispute.

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