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Back to work for bus drivers

2013-05-13 21:54 Cape Town - It is back to work on Tuesday for thousands of bus drivers who have been striking for almost a month for a double-digit salary increase.

On Monday a protracted

strike came to end when striking bus drivers affiliated to the SA Transport and Allied Workers' Union agreed to return to work after reaching a salary deal with employers.

They initially persisted in their demand for a double-digit wage increase of 18% and then brought it down to 13% before accepting the new deal of 9.5%.

The deal will take effect from April 1.

A further 0.5% would kick in later said Klaus Heimes of the SA Bus Employers' Association (Sabea).

"In effect, the wage agreement is a 10% increase from October, to make it more affordable for the employers," he said.

Lift the lockout

General Secretary of the South African Roads Bargaining Council, Gary Wilson told the

SABC that employers have been called on to lift the lockout so that the workers can return to work.

The Transport and Omnibus Workers' Union said Golden Arrow buses will be back in operation and

apologised over the inconvenience caused by the strike.

Bus drivers parked their buses on April 19, leaving thousands of commuters stranded across the country.

They later intensified the protest action, when they took to the streets picketing in Cape Town and Johannesburg.

The Congress of SA Trade Unions expressed

support for striking bus drivers and their wage demands, saying drivers needed a better living wage.

Commuters turn to loan sharks

Strike-hit commuters who have been inconvenienced by the protracted nationwide bus strike can now breathe a sigh of relief.

Commuters affected by the strike have resorted to using loan sharks to pay for their transport, the Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry said earlier this month.

"The workers will feel the effects of the strike long after it has ended," chamber member Michael Bagraim said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the Bombela Concession Company's Gautrain bus service, Mega Express,

reached a deal on Thursday night with majority union the United Transport and Allied Trade Union (Utatu) for a 9% increase, effective from April 1.

Utatu deputy general secretary Pieter Greyling said at the time workers' transport allowance was also increased from R35 a day to R45, effective from Friday.

Strike season

However, analysts predict that

South Africa's strike season is just getting started.

With the country experiencing tough economic times and unions emboldened by hefty wage increases granted last year to end strikes, analysts predict difficult months ahead.

Crispen Chinguno, a sociology fellow at the University of Witwatersrand who is exploring the dynamics of strike violence, told AFP earlier this month: "It's going to be very tough, perhaps one of the very toughest collective bargaining (rounds), since the attainment of democracy."

 - Fin24 with agencies