Talks suspended at Metrobus

Friday, May 8, 2009

Johannesburg - Metrobus has suspended talks with the South African Municipal Workers' Union (Samwu) while it seeks financial support to meet the union's demands.

After finding a solution regarding salary increases, the negotiations are deadlocked over the number of years that should be accepted as entry level, determining the salary band within those years.

Metrobus wants to be sure that it will be able to finance the salaries if it agrees to a proposal made by Meshack Ravuku, a bargaining council facilitator, on the entry-level years, reports

For its part, Samwu, representing about 600 striking Metrobus employees, agreed to Mr Ravuku's proposal to end the strike.

"The union accepted what the negotiator proposed," said the Metrobus spokesperson, Kenney Kutu. "We did not reject the proposal; however, we made an offer that we could afford."

He said the company was facing budget constraints and was, therefore, engaging the City of Johannesburg - Metrobus' sole owner - on whether to agree to Mr Ravuku's proposal. "We do not want to agree on something, then the next thing the company gets buried."

The meeting with the city's management will determine the availability of funds and the fate of the strike. "Should we get the money we will approach the union and the negotiator.

"We cannot meet [with Samwu] until we get the money. The proposal of the facilitator is good, but we have huge budget constraints," Mr Kutu said.

Mr Kutu said Metrobus believed that all the offers it had proposed to Samwu were fair. It was "unfortunate" that the union did not want to suspend the strike while the company sorted out its budget constraints. "The union won't budge."

Samwu has consistently maintained that the strike was indefinite and would end only when all their demands were met.

Mr Kutu said the company would facilitate the negotiation meetings soon as they "get the money. If something comes out the union and the negotiator are just calls away."

Meanwhile, Metrobus has assured its commuters that it will not increase its fares as a result of the strike.

"We also like to thank other public transport operators who are overstretched but continue to provide much-needed public transport," said the City spokesperson, Nthatisi Modingoane.