Durban bus strike over

Mary Papayya

Mary Papayya

The bus strike in KwaZulu-Natal that has affected thousands of commuters for more than two months has ended.

A ground-breaking agreement has been reached between about 1000 bus drivers and the eThekwini municipality.

The agreement dictates that the drivers be employed by the municipality or by the new service provider, should the municipality outsource the bus service. The settlement, struck by the drivers, the ANC and the bus company, also ensured that workers will be compensated for all monies owed to them.

The matter was settled on Friday when the ANC in eThekwini intervened in the long-standing battle between Remnant Alton bus service and the drivers.

This is a similar intervention by the ANC to one that led to the rehiring of the city's solid waste workers who were also on strike until two weeks ago.

Remnant Alton won the contract to take over the bus operation in Durban in 2003. It was the largest black economic empowerment deal in the history of the eThekwini municipality.

However, complaints about poor service, financial and employee management soon followed. It is not known who exactly owns the bus company.

In August this year the eThekwini municipality bought back the buses from Remnant Alton after allegations of mismanagement. The deal was that workers would stay on with Remnant Alton. This infuriated some 900 workers, including 810 bus drivers.

The drivers downed tools demanding to be taken over by the municipality as well. They were allegedly fired for going on an illegal strike.

Yesterday John Mchunu, the ANC's eThekwini secretary, confirmed that he had struck a deal with all parties.

"Workers will be paid and given back their jobs. We also agreed with Remnant Alton that no jobs will be lost until their contract ends in 2010," said Mchunu.

He said one of the key agreements was that workers will have a "say in the entire process from here on".

Yesterday buses were in operation on all the city's routes. SA Agency Labour Brokers Organisation representative, Alfred Dludla, said the agreement "was good news for the workers".

"Payment of outstanding money and the fact that no jobs will be lost is exactly what the workers wanted," he said.

City manager Michael Sutcliffe said the outcome was good for the city and 2010.

"This is good news for workers and commuters," he said.