While the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) had promised a 5% wage increase for their workers over the next three years, the state-owned entity (SOE) has now admitted that it doesn’t have the funds to meet the agreement.
This means they are staring down the barrel of Labour Court action by unions, in an attempt to force them to abide by their agreement.
At least 12,000 workers within bargaining grade, junior, and non-management staff in all Prasa entities aside from Autopax, had signed a three-year, 5% wage increase agreement for the 2020-2021, 2021-2022 and 2022-2023 financial years.
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This after the labour unions requested a one-year wage increase but it was escalated to three years, with the third year being less than the other two years. This agreement was then signed in October 2020, said United National Transport Union (Untu) general secretary Steve Harris.
While the first increment was paid in November, with the next 5% increase meant to be effective at the end of April, this, however, did not happen, Harris said.
“The next 5% increment was due on 27 April, which is pay day, but they did not pay that amount. This seems to be a tendency from all state-owned entities all of a sudden, that they are reneging on agreements that they have signed.
“What is frustrating is that labour was happy with the one-year agreement and management wanted the three-year agreement because they wanted stability,” he said.
The unions will approach the Labour Court on Thursday for an urgent application into the matter.
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Their initial application was placed on hold after Prasa chief executive officer (CEO) Zolani Matthews pleaded for time to sort out challenges with the Department of Transport and National Treasury. The union gave the agency until 7 May 2021 .
“There was obviously no response and we have taken a final decision to apply for an urgent application with the Labour Court. The submission will be made by no later than [Thursday]. When I spoke to our attorney, we are looking at a possible [court] date of 8 June,” Harris said.
Asked why the wage increase was still unpaid, Prasa spokesperson Bane Ndlovu said: “Prasa does not have the funds.”
“Prasa undertook to consult with the director -eneral of the Department of Transport for support to request funding from Treasury. The group CEO met with the director-general of the Department of Transport.”
He could not give their reaction to the court application, neither could he confirm when workers would receive what is due to them.
“We cannot commit to a date,” said Ndlovu.