Use of stun grenades on Gautrain strikers uncalled for – Untu

Gautrain workers affiliated with the United National Transport Union (Untu) are seen picketing outside the Gautrain bus depot in Midrand, 30 July 2018. Picture: Jacques Nelles

The union claims the strikers were dancing peacefully and not intimidating nonstriking workers when the grenades were fired.

The United National Transport Union (Untu) said the shots police fired at their members during their first day on strike yesterday were uncalled for.

Untu spokesperson Sonja Carstens said the striking workers who had gathered at the Midrand bus depot yesterday morning, after reaching a deadlock in wage negotiations last week, had harmlessly danced in front of a bus that was attempting to leave, chanting “hamba” in Zulu (meaning leave).

She said that after the bus turned back to park in the depot, police fired five stun grenades at the striking workers. Carstens said this was uncalled for as the strike was peaceful and claims of intimidation towards nonstriking workers were not true.

Gautrain workers affiliated with the United National Transport Union (Untu) dance and sing outside the Gautrain bus depot in Midrand, 30 July 2018. Picture: Jacques Nelles

However, Gautrain spokesperson Kesagee Nayager said: “The bus service was delayed this morning as striking workers blocked the road preventing buses from leaving the depot.

“As a result, buses were unable to service Sandton station over the afternoon peak and a very limited number of buses serviced the airport and Rhodesfield passengers.”

However, she said the train service operated according to plan with no delays.

An EFF member is seen joining Gautrain workers affiliated with the United National Transport Union (Untu) picketing outside the Gautrain bus depot in Midrand, 30 July 2018. Picture: Jacques Nelles

The reduced service plan, which started yesterday morning, included “a peak period service between 5.45am and 9am, and 4pm to 7pm between Centurion and Sandton every 12 minutes, and between Sandton and Park stations every 20 minutes. No train service will be available during the off-peak period and only Centurion, Sandton and Park stations will be open. All trains will be eight-car trains and will go in both directions [north and south].”

Commuters should use the ticket vending machines or load value on the Gautrain website or app, as the ticket offices were closed. Passengers with monthly or weekly train tickets would be refunded for lost trips.

She added: “The company offered a 8.5% increase in salaries and benefits and this offer was rejected by Untu, whose demand equates to an increase of 19.5%. Our offer still stands and we remain willing to engage further should Untu wish to reconsider the offer.”

Carstens said the two parties had not communicated since their deadlock on Saturday and that the strike would be indefinite until the employers gave in to their demands.

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