RAIL SHUTDOWN?

THE total shutdown of the country's rail transport is now a distinct possibility after wage talks between the unions and Passenger Road Agency of South Africa deadlocked.

THE total shutdown of the country's rail transport is now a distinct possibility after wage talks between the unions and Passenger Road Agency of South Africa deadlocked.

The indefinite strike is set to cause major inconvenience to the millions of passengers who depend on the train service.

The unions want a 12,5percent increase across the board and permanent employment for contract workers.

"It is regrettable that management said 7percent was their final offer. Even if we come down there is nothing from their side," said South African Transport and Allied Workers Union's (Satawu) general secretary Randall Howard.

Howard said Satawu's national leadership would meet with their Prasa counterparts "to try to avert the strike".

The lowest paid train drivers earn between R8000 and R10000 and a 12percent increase would mean increases of between R960 and R1250.

Ticket examiners and customer services staff earn between R4000 and R6000 and a 7percent percent increase would mean between R300 and R500.

Chris de Vos, general secretary of United Transport and Allied Trade Union (Utatu), said: "We will give Metrorail 48 hours notice to prepare alternative transport for the 2million passengers that will be affected if we go on strike."

De Vos said the unions would decrease the offer "if it was linked" to employment of contract workers.

He said Utatu and Satawu were the only unions representing Metrorail workers.

Attempts to get comment from Metrorail spokesperson Sibusiso Ngomane failed.

He told Sowetan yesterdayhe was in church and asked to be called an hour later.

But when contacted two hours later he said he was still "at worship".

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