Unions to strike over dangerous working conditions in trains

Fire fighters putting out fire on a Metrorail train in Booysens. File photo.
Fire fighters putting out fire on a Metrorail train in Booysens. File photo.
Image: SIMPHIWE NKWALI/Sunday Times

Trade unions will strike in major cities on Friday over unsafe trains and poor service. 

The Federation of Unions of South Africa (Fedusa) and the United National Transport Union (Untu) announced the strike on Wednesday in separate statements.

Fedusa spokesperson Frank Nxumalo said they would be protesting against the "extremely poor and dangerous passenger train services that continue to violate all health and safety provisions as seen by perpetually late trains, deliberate acts of arson, and endless fatal accidents that have left many families traumatised and burdened with disciplinary action".

Fedusa and Untu want President Cyril Ramaphosa to send in the army to stabilise passenger rail services which Fedusa called a national disaster.

Untu also want:

  • The police to fulfil its constitutional mandate to protect SA's citizens, "also when it comes to Prasa";
  • Prasa to be reintegrated with Transnet;
  • Prasa to ensure a safe and healthy environment for its employees;
  • The Railway Safety Regulator (RSR) to exercise its statutory mandate independently from Prasa; and
  • Government to find alternative housing and move residents living within the safety reserve that is between 20m to 40m of railroads.

The strike will start at 10am on Friday, with marches planned from:

  • Keizersgracht Street to parliament in Cape Town;
  • End Street Park to the transport department at 45 Commissioner Street in Johannesburg;
  • King DinuZulu Park to City Hall in Durban; and
  • Belgrave Square Park to the Union Buildings in Pretoria.

Transport minister Fikile Mbalula said on Wednesday in Cape Town that commuter safety was "sacrosanct". 

"We will not tolerate behaviour that places the lives of innocent women and children and other commuters at risk. This extends to the conduct of those who operate services and those who may be taking part in protest or labour action."

Mbalula assigned the new transport department director-general, Alec Moemi, to develop a national safety and security policy for public transport.

"This exercise must lead to direct in-sourcing of at least 80% of security personnel by Prasa. These security officers must receive their basic training from SAPS, and I have discussed this with Minister Cele."

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