South Africa: Metrobus Strike - Demawusa Vows to Continue, Despite 'Minority Union' Status

16 September 2019

Metrobus has warned workers affiliated to Democratic Municipal and Allied Workers Union (Demawusa) that they are part of a minority union which has limited rights to make demands.

This is after Demawusa embarked on a protected strike over pay on Monday.

Johannesburg commuters were left stranded after the union halted services.

According to Demawusa spokesperson Dion Makhura, employees are demanding to be paid a salary progression based on three-year periods of accumulated service. They also want to be given offices and resources in all three depots.

However, Metrobus spokesperson Goodwill Shivuri said the union had limited rights.

"The only thing they have now is administrative rights to be able to come to the building and recruit members. And their status has not changed, they are still a minority union.

"For one to change the scope of that, they need to improve on numbers and they can then come to us and say, can we extend that scope of our rights," Shivuri said.

He said other unions, Imatu and Samwu, had offices in the depots because they were in the majority and, as soon as Demawusa's scope changed, the company would reconsider its request for office space.

Salary progression

Shivuri said, because Metrobus was an entity of the City of Johannesburg, salary issues were addressed through the Bargaining Council and, therefore, it could not act outside a collective agreement with majority unions.

He said that would cause anger and result in a full-blown strike by Imatu and Samwu.

"We are carefully approaching the issue, but the fact that it inconveniences passengers is something we want to deal with, and end as soon as possible," Shivuri said.

He said a bus that had been "hijacked" in the early hours of the morning was later recovered, adding that the action was a "threat to scare off people who were working". The bus is now stationed at Ghandi Square terminal.

Because of fear of intimidation, workers affiliated to other unions were forced to stop operating, he added.

He said Metrobus would meet with the union and try resolve the impasse as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, Makhura said the union would not concede to any agreement that did not meet their demands.

'Nothing prohibiting us to go on strike'

"There is nothing in the Labour Relations Act or the Constitution that says you must be a majority to go on strike. They are lost.

"How can the Labour Court give us a go-ahead to go on strike if what we are doing is not according to the law of the Republic," he said.

Makhura claimed there was no agreement between Metrobus and Imatu and Samwu regarding pay.

"Even if they can enter into an agreement [with other unions], there is nothing prohibiting us to go on strike," he said.

He said the strike would continue until their demands were met, adding that reports that a bus had been hijacked were a "lie and fallacy".

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