Transport union accuses Prasa of 'gambling with lives' as virus spreads

24 March 2020 - 13:54 By Nomahlubi Jordaan
Prasa said it is battling to get supplies of protective equipment for operational staff due to the countrywide shortage of items.
Prasa said it is battling to get supplies of protective equipment for operational staff due to the countrywide shortage of items.
Image: Gallo Images / Rapport / Deon Raath

The United National Transport Union (Untu) has accused the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) of failing to provide sufficient protective equipment for its operational staff to curb the spread of Covid-19.

Untu accused Prasa of “gambling” with the lives of its operational employees and thousands of commuters.

Prasa, however, said it was distributing the goods but this was being hampered by a national shortage.

Untu's acting general secretary, John Pereira, said Prasa had been unable to supply operational employees with enough hand sanitisers, face masks and gloves, and it could not combat overcrowding by commuters aboard Metrorail coaches.

“This comes after transport minister Fikile Mbalula has since last week ignored repeated calls from Untu to suspend the operations of Metrorail to combat the spreading of the virus.

“Due to the shortage of trains, commuters are crammed into coaches with up to 200 per coach. This has continued daily even though President Cyril Ramaphosa declared a national disaster on March 15 prohibiting gatherings of more than 100 people,” said Pereira.

He said though Prasa had promised to deliver face masks, hand sanitisers, wipes and gloves to operational employees, a national shortage prevented the state-owned enterprise from distributing enough.

“Operational employees nationwide had no protection from the thousands of commuters they are exposed to,” Perreira said.

Prasa spokesperson Makhosini Mgitywa said Prasa was distributing personal protection equipment and sanitisers.

“This started last Friday and is ongoing. It must be borne in mind that the country is experiencing a shortage of sanitisers and masks which affects our ability to procure and distribute them.

“Prasa is also concerned about the overcrowding in trains and will soon make an announcement regarding its services in light of the lockdown,”  said Mgitywa.


X