Striking United National Transport Union (Untu) members are adamant that the Bombela Operating Company (BOC), which operates the Gautrain, should open its books and show, among other things, the bonuses paid to executives over the last few years.
The operations of Gauteng’s high-speed Gautrain were severely disrupted on Monday when Untu, which represents 90% of Bombela staff, went on strike for higher wages and benefits.
Bombela announced on Sunday that trains would only run during the peak period and only between Centurion, Sandton and Park stations.
A bus service was arranged to take passengers from the Sandton and Rhodesfield stations to OR Tambo International Airport, but this was eventually scaled down.
Untu members gathered at the Gautrain train and bus depot in Midrand. At one stage, police fired a few stun grenades at them.
Bombela has refused to disclose its financial statements to the union, even on a confidential basis.
BOC has offered an 8.5% wage increase, while Untu continues to demand an increase of 10%.
“We remain blind, as the employer [has] to date not given the union insight into the financial position of BOC,” says Untu general secretary Steve Harris. “BOC claims to be contractually bound to pay their profits to a French-owned company, but refuses to disclose what their profits are.”
According to Untu spokesperson Sonja Carstens, Gautrain conductors earn between R6 800 and R11 448 per month and train drivers between R14 448 and R23 754 per month.
Bombela staff also get a housing allowance of R450 per month and a transport allowance of R24 per month.
Carstens says the first shift reports for duty at the Midrand depot as early as 03:00 in the morning and the last shift finishes at 23:15.
The depot is in an isolated area and during the early morning hours and late at night there is no public transport available. This is a safety issue for Untu members, she says.
They often end up sleeping at work in a shipping container that was made available as a resting station.
Untu asked the employer to provide a minibus to transport workers, but Bombela refused, saying it is not practical, according to Carstens.
She says workers live far from work since they cannot afford accommodation along the Gautrain route, which includes areas where property prices are high, such as Sandton, Rosebank and Centurion.
Untu is insisting on an increase in the transport allowance to R65 per month, and a R1 600 housing allowance.
According to Carstens, Bombela earlier agreed in writing to pay workers incentive bonuses. Untu insists that this bonus should be paid out of company profits, but Bombela now refuses, saying it should be part of the available wage basket.
The strike will continue indefinitely until Untu’s demands are met or its members decide to return to work, says Carstens.
Bombela could not be reached for comment.