Five bus companies, including Golden Arrow and Putco, have applied to be excluded from complying with the recently signed bus sector wage agreement, a move that could result in labour unrest.
They have cited financial difficulties, angering labour, with the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu) saying the move undermines collective bargaining.
Labour laws allow companies to apply for exemption to collective bargaining agreements provided they can prove their inability to meet the conditions set therein.
The bus sector wage agreement was reached two months ago after a 26-day strike by workers.
If the bus companies succeed, about 19,000 employees could see their wages stagnate.
Under the deal, workers will receive a 9% wage increase for 2018 and 8% for 2019.
Although Golden Arrow has paid workers the 9% increase this year, it has, according to Satawu, applied to be exempted from paying the 8% in 2019.
The move by the employers also follows the South African Road Passenger Bargaining Council’s application to the labour minister for the deal to be extended to cover all companies in the sector, with only 80% represented by the council.
The council will now have to process the applications submitted, taking into consideration factors such as the company’s record of compliance with collective agreements, interests of employees with regard to exploitation, job preservation and possible financial benefits.
Satawu sector co-ordinator Solomon Mahlangu told Business Day that the case of Putco workers was complicated by the company’s decision to retrench more than 200 workers just after the deal was reached. He explained that the company had also applied for exemptions from paying bonuses as part of the past five council agreements.
“The bargaining council said it could not give them an exemption, they would have to pay 75% of the annual bonuses in 2017 and 25% in 2018, but they paid in full this past December,” he said.
Putco collects its revenue from commuter fares, transporting 200,000 passengers a day, and also receives a government subsidy that increases by 3.24% yearly.
Putco said on Tuesday that it has applied for a 12-month delay in the implementation of the 9% wage hikes for all its employees in 2018-19, a delay in the adjustment of minimum hourly rates and exemption from paying bonuses this December.
Putco said it regretted the effect the exemption would have on employees, but its application was necessitated by its serious financial position.
Meanwhile, Golden Arrow spokesman John Dammert would not disclose the reasons why his company could not meet the terms of the wage agreement. It operates 1,045 buses during peak hours, serving 1,300 routes in the Cape Town metro.
*This article was first published on www.businelive.co.za