Tuesday, June 21, 2016

COSATU to Strike for Better Transport in Cape Town on Wednesday
Jun 21, 2016
Bekezela Phakathi
Business Day Live

More than 200,000 Cosatu members will down tools in a one-day strike after talks collapse

MORE than 200,000 Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) members in the Western Cape were to go on a strike on Wednesday to demand improved rail and bus services in Cape Town. The one-day action will be likely to cause major disruptions in the province.

In 2015, the union lodged a Section 77 application to the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) against Metrorail, the Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa), the City of Cape Town, the Western Cape government and the Cape Chamber of Commerce.

The union said that negotiations among the parties had not yielded the desired results. Cosatu Western Cape regional secretary Tony Ehrenreich said on Monday: "The train services are still poor, and MyCiTi buses mainly cater for the affluent areas."

Metrorail, a division of Prasa, has come under pressure because its commuter rail services are in a state of decline after decades of underinvestment, deferred maintenance, outdated technology and the loss of critical staff and skills.

Rail is the backbone of public transport in Cape Town.

Cosatu has demanded that Metrorail refund workers the money they are losing as a result of train delays, which occur often.

"When commuters buy (train) tickets, then Metrorail enters into a contract with them to deliver a service. Should they fail to deliver the service, then they must refund the ticket price. Metrorail must also refund the money that workers have to spend on alternative transport," Ehrenreich said.

He also said that overcrowded trains posed a danger to workers.

Ehrenreich urged bosses to stop disciplining workers for arriving late at work because of Metrorail delays.

"There must be no ticket price increase until the system is fixed and improved.... The MyCiTi buses are unfairly distributed across the Cape Town metro. We demand that buses be moved from Milnerton and Camps Bay to the Cape Flats," he added.

The Cape Chamber of Commerce said recently that Cape Town’s failing commuter rail transport system and increased traffic congestion had left the metro on the verge of a crisis.

The chamber said that the results of a survey conducted among its members found that about 85% of respondents felt the situation had demotivated staff and reduced productivity; while 90% said traffic congestion had increased transport costs in terms of fuel consumed and time lost.

Janine Myburgh, president of the chamber, said the survey also showed growing anger at the underperformance of Metrorail. "What makes this so sad is that Cape Town has the best network of railway lines ... in the country, but the service ... seems to be getting worse," Myburgh said.

Metrorail spokeswoman Riana Scott said it was not possible to pre-empt the effect of the strike, as there was no confirmation of the number of people who would participate.

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