'Metrorail and state do not care about strike'

THE Federation of Unions of SA expressed disappointment yesterday with the government's unwillingness to intervene in the Metrorail strike.

"We are very disappointed in the manner in which our members are being treated by not only the employer, but also the government, who has made no attempt to intervene in this matter," Fedusa general secretary Gretchen Humphries said.

Metrorail's parent company, the Passenger Rail Agency of SA, warned yesterday that it was not open to any more wage negotiations, saying the strike by the Fedusa-affiliated United Transport and Allied Trade Union was not severely disrupting services.

As the stayaway entered its third day, Prasa said it was of little consequence.

"They are a smaller union and they are not paralysing the system," Prasa spokesperson Tiro Holele said.

He said the months of salary negotiations between transport unions and Metrorail were over.

"An agreement has been signed with the majority union. The salary offer stands and has already been implemented. We've paid all the workers," Holele said yesterday.

But Utatu said it did not see any end in sight to the strike.

The strike has had a minimal effect in Durban and Johannesburg but has devastated public transport in Cape Town since Monday, with thousands of commuters flocking to taxi and bus ranks.

Township residents, who pay about R100 for a monthly train ticket, have been hit hardest, shelling out up to R20 a day on taxi fares during the strike.

The ANC slammed DA MEC for transport and public works Robin Carlisle for failing to intervene in the strike.

"Is the DA not concerned about the poor communities who use the trains to get to work? Carlisle is not interested in dealing with them," said ANC member of the provincial legislature Koleka Mqulwana.

The dispute between Utatu and Metrorail stemmed from a recent wage settlement that will reduce the amount of overtime workers can claim.

Utatu represents between 2500 and 2800 Metrorail workers, including train drivers and most of the administrative staff such as ticket sellers. In Cape Town it represents about 80percent of train drivers.