220 000 Cosatu members could strike over trains | Fin24
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220 000 Cosatu members could strike over trains

Jul 30 2015 11:50
Matthew le Cordeur

Cape Town - The Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) will embark on strike action in the Western Cape in August if its Section 77 Application against various stakeholders is not dealt with urgently, it said on Thursday.

That means 220 000 members will strike in the Western Cape should the matter not be resolved, Cosatu confirmed at a briefing in Cape Town.

It announced that it has handed in its Section 77 Application to Nedlac against national government, Metrorail, Prasa, the City of Cape Town, the Western Cape government, the Cape Town Chamber of Business and Industry and businesses "for the dismal state of the rail services in Cape Town" and the impact this has on its members.

They want the committee to set the application down with urgency and, if the matter is not dealt with by the third week of August, all Cosatu members will embark on strike action to force the government to take action.

"Business has been deducting wages and disciplining our members for arriving late at work due to trains arriving later," said Tony Ehrenreich, Cosatu’s Western Cape regional secretary.

"It is a short time to resolve the situation, we concede that, but we have been discussing these issues for the past five years," he said. "We don't want to go on strike to be reckless, but because our members are unsafe."

Ehrenreich said that the government is prepared to spend millions of rands on planes - "the transport for the rich" - but is not spending money on basic transport that is safe and reliable for its members.

"We want Nedlac to bring all stakeholders together at a meeting next week, where we will show them how to solve the issues at hand," he said. "We know where the buses are, we know where the trains are - our members have told us how to solve the problems."

What Cosatu told Nedlac

In its application, Cosatu said the trains are more than 100% overcrowded, which is leading to dangerous situations where commuters have to hang out of train doors and stand between carriages.

"The unreliable service is leading to a situation where commuters have to make alternative transport arrangements, due to the cancellation of trains for which they have purchased a weekly or monthly ticket," Cosatu said in a statement on Thursday.

"The latest situation is a whole carriage of people being robbed on the train because of insufficient security," it said. "This is not only leading to the loss of money from those robbed, but a life threatening situation where people have already been injured.

"The derailment of trains is directly related to the servicing of the infrastructure and here the compacting machine that has been outsourced is an area of concern.

"The prioritising of the trains dealing with freight ahead of trains dealing with people's lives is an area of concern that demonstrates a lack of concern for commuters.

"The MyCiti buses are not being allocated in a manner that can ameliorate a life threatening situation for commuters from the Cape Flats. The buses need to be deployed in a manner that prioritises the Cape Flats and compliments the trains in the short term due to the problems.

"The areas that are the best serviced by the My Citi buses include those areas where every mainly white household has a private car for their transport needs - it is for this reason why the City of Cape Town is also cited in the application.

"The Provincial Government has done nothing to provide public transport service between the rural towns for the poor communities that reside on farms and small towns. We demand an effective, regular bus service between the towns as a matter of urgency."

The Western Cape leadership of Cosatu at the Ritz Hotel in Sea Point, Cape Town, on Thursday. (Photo: Matthew le Cordeur)

Fare increase

On June 30, Fin24 reported that the train fare increase from July 1 ups the cost of single tickets from 50 cents to R1, weeklies from R1 to R2 and monthlies from R2 to R38, depending on travel zone and class.

"Without the fare increase to sustain current service levels the region would have to seriously consider rationalising services," Metrorail regional manager Richard Walker told Fin24 on June 30.

He said that rail commuters already benefit from a government subsidy which contributes about 50% of the actual cost of operating the current service.

"Metrorail's pro-poor pricing strategy favours the majority of loyal train users and provides cost saver options in weekly and monthly ticket prices. For instance, Metro users pay for only 6.5 trips per week but have the option of 14 trips including the weekends. Similarly, Metro monthly tickets are priced for 3.1 weeks' travel but allow the holder to travel for 4 weeks."

Cosatu in the Western Cape threatened strike action against Metrorail's fare hike.

"Cosatu is opposed to the Metrorail price increase," Ehrenreich told Fin24 on June 30.

He said on June 30 that Cosatu would be filing a Section 77 Application against Metrorail to stop the increase and to strike if needs be.

"Cosatu opposes any increase in the fares until the trains are running on time and regularly, with sufficient capacity to reduce the chronic levels of overcrowding," said Ehrenreich.

"The current situation is that after spending money on a weekly or monthly ticket, workers have to spend additional money for alternative transport in the event of train delays. This is an extra expense that has become regular due to the bad state of the trains at present."

metrorail  |  cosatu  |  prasa  |  strike


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