Workers vow to continue with MyCiTi bus strike
NUMSA says strike “hijacked” by EFF
Striking workers on MyCiTi bus routes gathered outside the Civic Centre in Cape Town to hear regional secretary-general Vuyo Lufele of NUMSA on Wednesday morning.
Lufele battled to control the crowd. Workers accused him and NUMSA of ignoring their problems. He told them the strike was unprotected. They demanded he go into the City of Cape Town offices with a representative of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF). He refused. “I don’t work with political parties,” he told the strikers.
Lufele told GroundUp: “I have tried hard to tell these workers that this is an unprotected strike, but they said they will continue with the strike. But because they are our members we can’t abandon them.”
“The strike has been hijacked by the Economic Freedom Fighters and the workers have been misled. I am still looking for the relevant people in the City Of Cape Town office to speak to and respond to their demands,” he said.
In the meanwhile the City said that it would apply for an urgent court interdict to “protect MyCiTi personnel, passengers, and assets against those participating in an unprotected strike that has turned violent.”
In a memorandum the workers said they wanted to be brought onto the City’s payroll, they wanted equal pay for equal work, better working conditions “and to drive buses in good working condition”.
They also demand disclosure of the contracts between the City and the MyCiTi VOCs (vehicle operating companies). They want no disciplinary action against or victimisation of workers who participated in the strike.
Masigicinane Pesi, a bus driver, told Lufele: “We can’t trust you guys [NUMSA] because there is nothing you are bringing to us. Workers don’t have confidence in you anymore.”
Patrick Mabindisa, spokesperson for the strikers, said the way forward was for the workers to meet with Mayoral Committee Member for Transport Councillor Brett Herron, NUMSA, and the EFF.
“EFF has been there with us since the beginning and [we] would like to move with them till the end,” he said.
He said operators Table Bay Rapid Transit, Afroteq, Enforce Metro were “labour brokers” who had tendered to run the MyCiTi buses. “They use the City’s disciplinary channels and code of conduct, but the salaries and working conditions are not the same as those directly employed the City,” said Mabindisa
“The City is spending millions on these labour brokers … That money could be used to top up our salaries and improve our working conditions,” he said.
He said Golden Arrow [of which Table Bay Rapid Transit is a subsidiary] had gone to court to interdict them. GroundUp could not get confirmation from the company at the time of publishing.
Mabindisa said that on Tuesday Table Bay Rapid Transit had said that if the strikers did not report for work on Wednesday, they would be fired. “This then means when we go back to work we will still earn peanuts and be served with notices of suspensions,” he said.
One of the workers said that in April NUMSA had told workers to go back to work and work three months while the union engaged the employer. “But now three months is finished and there is no feedback. The union has failed us … We are not ending this strike until our demands are resolved,” he said.
In a press statement on 16 October, the City said it had long-term contracts with the operating companies. Herron said: “The bus drivers are represented by trade unions and their conditions of employment are the subject of a collective bargaining agreement. The annual national wage negotiations take place at the South African Road Passenger Bargaining Council National Bargaining Forum. A wage agreement was reached as recently as May this year, following a protracted four-week strike in April.”
“The so-called ‘outsourcing’ of labour” is a myth, a statement by the City on 17 October said. “The MyCiTi service was rolled out in Cape Town in May 2010 after the City entered into long-term operational contracts with VOCs to run the MyCiTi routes.”
“The minibus-taxi drivers received extensive training to become bus drivers and have since been employed by the VOCs,” the statement said. “Thus, the VOCs were formed to empower the minibus-taxi industry and most of those who are employed by the VOCs have come directly from the industry itself. Empowerment is the main reason for the VOCs being established, and what the EFF is propagating will undermine this very principle.”
The City said commuters with monthly MyCiTi tickets would be reimbursed with the number of days that they could not make use of the service due to the strike action.
UPDATE: This article was updated after publication with additional comment from the City.
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