'No winners‚ only losers' after bus strike

15 May 2018 - 14:34 By Timeslive
STANDING STILL: Algoa Bus Company employees mill around the Pearl Road depot after they downed tools at 10am yesterday, joining colleagues affiliated to other unions in strike action.
STANDING STILL: Algoa Bus Company employees mill around the Pearl Road depot after they downed tools at 10am yesterday, joining colleagues affiliated to other unions in strike action.
Image: EUGENE COETZEE

Bus drivers who engaged in a national strike would have to work for up to year to recoup the month’s pay they lost because of the no-work-no-pay rule.

That was the view of the Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry‚ which on Tuesday described the bus strike as a “disaster” that left behind only losers and no winners.

“If the unions had accepted the employers initial offer of a 7% increase the workers would be better off than they are today‚” said Janine Myburgh‚ president of the chamber.

The unions settled for a 9% increase - but workers lost nearly a month’s pay because of the no-work-no-pay rule.

“It will take a year of higher wages to wipe out their losses and pay back the loans many of them needed to put food on the table for their families‚” said Myburgh. “They are worse off now than they were before the strike and a lot worse off than they would have been if they had accepted the initial seven percent offer and continued working and earning.”

Bus passengers were also hurt financially by having to pay higher travelling costs to get to work using alternative means of transport such as taxis. Employers were affected by higher absentee rates‚ workers arriving late and the knock on effect on production.

“Even worse is that the strike has poisoned industrial relations. It is a fact of life that there are good employers and bad employers. Workers have a right to take industrial action against bad employers who pay the lowest possible wages and fail to provide the benefits that most of us take for granted.

“But we also have good employers who pay well above negotiated pay rates and provide a wide range of benefits from medical aid and pensions to training and educational assistance. These good employers should be respected and held up as an example by unions and others.

“Instead they were dragged into the national strike and suffered serious economic damage. Their workers also suffered as they could not be paid‚” said Myburgh.

Myburgh said there were lessons to be learnt from the strike. One was that the system of national bargaining was unfair as conditions varied from province to province and from employer to employer.

“What we need is more democracy in the workplace and that means secret ballots before industrial action can take place. That gives more power to the workers but it does take away power from dominating union bosses. Business needs to hear the real voice of the workers and not the versions of union leaders‚” she said.


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