Increase in bus driver salaries could mean fare increases

Friday, May 15, 2009

Johannesburg - Metrobus has announced that if it were to accept the salary increase proposal put forward by striking bus drivers, the company would be forced to increase its bus fares.

"If we accept the union's proposal, we will have to hike bus fares or request further funding from the City of Johannesburg. In other words, we will have to ask commuters and ratepayers to fund the settlement," said Metrobus managing director Herman van Laar.

Talks between the union and the company to end the bus strike, which has entered its third week, collapsed this week. Bus drivers went on strike almost three weeks ago leaving thousands of commuters stranded.

In a statement, Mr van Laar explained that Metrobus had acceded to the demand of the South African Municipal Workers Union (SAMWU) for length of service-related pay progression.

"We agree that it is only fair that employees receive some reward for loyalty and experience," he said,

However, the two have not been able to agree on the criteria for advancement from one salary band to the next.

Metrobus proposed a system where workers would advance every five years and reach the top of the scale after 20 years, while the union proposed the first increase after three years and that workers reach the top of the scale after six years of service.

Ms van Laar said this rapid progression would be extremely costly and unsustainable.

"The cost of the new pay structure is a very real issue and one that the general public have a stake in.

"Although Metrobus is an independent company, it is an unusual organisation in that it derives 75 percent of its revenue from the City of Joburg and only 25 percent from commuters by means of the fares levied," said Mr van Laar.

Metrobus currently does not generate a profit and envisages achieving savings on its current operations in order to fund the new salary structure. This source of funding will cover the Metrobus proposal but will not be adequate for the kind of salary structure the union is demanding.

"If we accept the union's proposal, we will have to hike bus fares or request further funding from the City of Joburg. In other words, we will have to ask commuters and ratepayers to fund the settlement."

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