WAGE OFFER MAY PUT BUS STRIKE ON HOLD

THREE unions who had planned to go on strike today after a dispute with the bus operators association were yesterday divided on whether the strike would go ahead.

THREE unions who had planned to go on strike today after a dispute with the bus operators association were yesterday divided on whether the strike would go ahead.

South African Trade and Allied Workers Union (Satawu), Transport and Omnibus Workers Union (Towa) and Transport and Allied Workers Union of South Africa (Tawusa) - all affiliates of the South African Road Passenger Bargaining Council - had been scheduled to go on a collective national strike today over a wage dispute.

But Satawu and Towa confirmed that they suspended the strike yesterday after the employers' representative body, the South African Bus Employers' Association (Sabea), improved its initial offer of 6,5percent to a 10percent increase.

The two unions' version was confirmed by Sabea's Mechack Ramela, who said they were happy with the agreement.

But Tawusa's general secretary Zack Mankge insisted that the strike was going ahead as planned. He said the unions could not accept an increase of less than 11percent.

"Last year we accepted an 11percent increase. There is no way we can accept anything less than that this year because we are looking at the salary progression," Mankge said.

Satawu's Issaria Mataboge and Towa's Gary Wilson emphasised that the strike was not called off, but suspended, depending on the signing ceremony to be held in Johannesburg today.

They said the strike was put on hold after Sabea approached them with an improved offer on Saturday. The union had initially demanded a 15percent increase.

"We went to our members with the 10percent increase the employer had offered. They gave us a mandate to accept the offer. But it will depend on the finer details of the agreement whether we call off the strike completely or proceed with it as planned," Mataboge said.

The unions had issued a 48-hour notice on Friday for a strike to start today. The strike, which would have involved 15000 workers, including bus drivers, would have resulted in chaos since thousands of bus commuters would have been left stranded. Also to be affected would have been passengers travelling around the country.

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