South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (SATAWU) along with four other unions in the South African Road Passenger Bargaining Council (SARPBAC) will likely go on strike in April if a wage settlement is not reached.
SATAWU, NUMSA, TOWU, TAWUSA and TASWU were given a certificate of non-resolution after the four-day mediation they took part in with employer associations COBEA and SABEA failed to produce a wage agreement. The mediation process was overseen by Commissioner Tariq Jamodien last week but failed to reach a settlement.
Parties will now observe a 30-day cooling-off period during which they can engage if they choose to. A meeting to break the impasse is already set for 30 March to 1 April. Should parties fail to settle, unions will serve 48-hour notice of strike any time after 4 April, which is when the cooling-off period expires.
Wage negotiations in the passenger bus sector started in late January followed by mediation in late February and extended mediation last week but still settlement evaded the parties.
Initially unions had an 18-item demand list. Over the last three rounds they withdrew nine items in an effort to move towards an agreement. Employers on the other hand remained rigid only giving way for two improvements, namely; fixed term contract workers will become eligible for benefits after six months in employment and the scope of family responsibility is extended to include illness of a spouse not just death.
Parties are still in conflict with regard to the term of the agreement. Unions are seeking a one-year agreement while employers want a three-year settlement. Employers insisted on different wage increments for different categories of workers. In response, unions proposed to split workers into two groups – from those earning minimum rate up to those earning minimum plus 40%; and those that earn above minimum plus 40%.
Labour has proposed an 8.5% increase for the first group and 7.5% for the second group. Employers, on the other hand, want 6% for Year1, 5.5% for Year 2 and 5.5% for Year 3 for the first group. For the second group employers want 4.5% increase for each of the three years, hence the stalemate.
Unions also want the minimum rate of pay to increase by the highest agreed percentage increase (8.5%) and the same to apply to the subsistence and travel allowance as well as the cross-border allowance. Labour is also demanding the introduction of an industry medical aid but employers have refused citing exorbitant costs.
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