Vavi: Give low earners a transport subsidy

05 July 2011 - 01:47 By AMUKELANI CHAUKE
Cosatu protest. File picture.
Cosatu protest. File picture.

Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi has called on the government to introduce a transport subsidy for lower-paid workers.

Speaking to about 15000 striking engineering and metal workers in central Johannesburg yesterday, Vavi said such a subsidy would counter increasing transport costs facing factory workers, most of whom earned about R2500 a month.

His call was made at a time when Gauteng is faced with taxi and bus fare increases. And the Department of Transport is expected to implement e-tolls on provincial roads from November.

The currently proposed discounted tolls for vehicles fitted with e-tags, which will be submitted to the cabinet for its consideration, are 36c/km for buses and 11c/km for taxis.

"We are fighting for a transport allowance because we are tired of having our money being eaten up by transport costs," Vavi said.

He said trade union federation Cosatu would continue to fight for free access to medical care for workers.

Vavi said the transport subsidy would ease the pressure on low-wage earners, whom he said were struggling to afford basic needs, such as groceries and education.

"Many of our workers, we have discovered, live on R10 a day.

"One worker in South Africa supports a minimum of five people, and a large number of our citizens are dependent on social grants," he said.

Vavi took a swipe at politicians, whom he accused of neglecting the people who had voted them into power.

"We don't like what we see in our country, where politicians have big bellies [after being] voted into power by people who are skinny.

"And these politicians also go on official trips with their families and end up getting business opportunities for their cousins.

"We want politicians who will represent us in parliament instead of making themselves fatter," he said.

The strike caused traffic disruptions in most parts of the Johannesburg central business district at lunch time yesterday, with workers dancing and singing revolutionary songs.

Motorists were forced to wait for large groups of striking workers to stop blocking Market, Sauer, Simmonds and Commissioner streets. The strike also hit Port Elizabeth, East London and Cape Town.

The general secretary of the National Union of Metal Workers, Irvin Jim, said workers would strike until the engineering and metal sectors had acceded to their demands for a 13% wage increase and 20% overtime allowance, among other s.

Salminah Molekoa, a widowed mother of four, of Mofolo, in Soweto, said most of her R3000 a month was eaten up by the transport costs of her four children, for whom she collectively paid R1200 a month.

"I pay R200 for a train ride from Dube station to City Deep. I sometimes have to borrow money from colleagues and friends."

A resident of Dobsonville, Soweto, said his "very low wage" was not enough to support his wife and three primary school children. - Pheladi Maphutha and Tsholo Phaho