Sat, 07 Dec 2019

Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) employees - or at least some of them - will embark on a one-day strike on Friday, reports GroundUp.

The United National Transport Union (UNTU) said it would hold marches in several cities "to fix our trains", adding it had several concerns mostly relating to the safety of employees in an environment where Metrorail security had broken down.

The National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) has granted UNTU's umbrella union, Fedusa, a Section 77 certificate to proceed with the strike.

In a statement at the end of May, UNTU said Nedlac had to granted it permission to strike because negotiations for the improved safety of railway employees had "reached the end of the road".

Fedusa and UNTU's concerns are:

1. Employees have the right to a safe working environment but Prasa employees lives are in danger. Employees have been murdered and injured because of a lack of security at Metrorail.

2. Prasa needs to introduce a system to protect workers such as trained security and enclosing yards, stations and railroads.

3. Cable theft is also affecting workers. The breakdown in train services this caused has resulted in workers being late for work and consequently being "unfairly" dismissed or going unpaid.

4. Prasa has to be "transparent about its challenges" in its dealings with the railway safety regulator.

5. Prasa needs more manpower. Senior positions need to be filled to ensure "accountability and quality overall performance".

6. Prasa's reporting lines to the government need to be reviewed.

7. Regular meetings need to take place between Prasa and Fedusa.

8. Court decisions on railway safety need to be implemented.

Fedusa has also called for the SANDF to be deployed to "safeguard platforms for commuters".

Matthew Hirsch of commuter activist group #UniteBehind said the organisation was sympathetic to UNTU's call for safe trains. But he added it does not support the call for the SANDF to be deployed at stations.

Hirsch added it understood why people were desperate enough to call for the army to be deployed but "we don't believe this is a long-term solution and it could have serious implications".

Neither the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union, which is affiliated to Cosatu, nor the National Transport Movement, an affiliate of SAFTU, are supporting the strike.

'Unions have deviated from their mandates'

Nomawethu* a Cape Town train driver said she was concerned because UNTU was not the majority union and so the strike might not be effective.

She added the number of people who participated in strikes had dropped because workers have lost faith in unions.

"Unions have deviated from their mandates, they don't take our grievances seriously," she said.

Prasa's spokesperson, Nana Zenani, said it would ensure contingency plans were in place so that the strike does not affect operations.

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