Gautrain services are expected to grind to a halt on Monday morning as the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) will embark on a strike for improved wages.

This is despite a call by Bombela Operating Company, who manages the Gautrain, to urge the union and workers to abandon their intentions to strike and respect the vote of the majority of the workers it represents.

Kesagee Nayager, Gautrain spokesperson said the initial demand by NUMSA tallied to an increase of approximately 30% and their subsequent, revised demand equates to an increase of approximately 26%. However, the offer tabled by the company is 4.1%.

She said “NUMSA subsequently presented the offer to workers and a ballot was held on Friday (September 25), where only 124 of the 260 NUMSA members voted in favour of a strike and as such, a majority vote of 50%+1 as per the Labour Relations Act was not achieved to support a strike”.

However, NUMSA spokesperson Phakamile Hlubi-Majola rubbished the claim and said their members voted overwhelmingly for the strike with 124 members voting for the strike and only 8 members voting against it.

She said NUMSA in fact took a decision and issued a notice to strike to Bombela Operating Company management today. She said “The strike action will start on Monday and the strike will be indefinite until our demands are met”.

According to Nayager, when wage negotiations deadlocked, the matter was referred to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) for conciliation in terms of the Labour Relations Act but NUMSA unfortunately failed to attend the conciliation at the CCMA.

She said in NUMSA’s absence, the CCMA issued the company with a certificate of non-resolution on August 27. She added that “Since early August, when wage negotiations commenced, Bombela Operating Company had been committed to reaching an agreement in this regard”.

However, Hlubi-Majola insisted that the employer has not not been keen to return to the table to negotiate and this has left the union with no choice but to strike.

She said: “We took them to the CCMA and the CCMA issued us with a certificate on August 27 to strike. “Despite the certificate to strike NUMSA once again proposed a meeting to attempt to resolve the impasse, however, true to their arrogance the Bombela management turned this opportunity down. To make matters worse this management arbitrarily suspended our shop stewards on frivolous and unfounded grounds without informing the trade union, as is required in terms of the collective agreement between parties.”

Hlubi-Majola said the problem here was that Bombela made it clear that it was prepared to make an offer of a 4% increase and this was non-negotiable.

She added “As NUMSA, we have compromised on our demands and even gone as far as proposing that last year’s agreement should be extended to this year, where workers secured an 8% increase. This is because we want to cushion the lowest paid worker who is getting around R8 500 per month, but this was rejected outright by management without due consideration”.