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Thousands of workers in the bus transport industry could lose their jobs if the government fails to pay operators millions of rands in subsidies owed to them, MPs heard yesterday.
Briefing the National Assembly's transport committee, South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu) representative Jane Barrett said many bus operators would close shop unless the government paid all outstanding subsidies within a week.
"If payment is not made within the next week, 26000 bus workers are in danger of losing their jobs. All indications are that if government fails to pay up the subsidies, most bus companies will have to close," Barrett said.
The Southern Africa Bus Operators Association has gone to court to force the Department of Transport as well as other relevant government departments to pay close to R1,2billion in subsidies owed to its members.
Provincial transport departments are said to have told operators in their respective provinces in November last year that subsidies would not be paid from December to March - until Finance Minister Trevor Manuel outlined the new Budget in April.
Barrett, who said Satawu was fully behind Saboa's court action, blamed the treasury for the crisis. "The Department of Transport has been motivating to treasury for an increase in the baseline allocation for bus subsidies since 2004," she said.
Transport committee chairman Jeremy Cronin said while the government had all the rights to defend the matter in court, it had a duty to come up with emergency measures to save the industry. "As a committee, we urge treasury and the national Department of Transport to urgently make, at the very least, some contingency arrangements regardless of what the court findings are," he said. - Sapa