The United National Transport Union (Untu) on Thursday demanded the South African government ensure that the employees of bus operator Autopax receive their salaries.
Autopax is the bus division of the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA). Autopax sent an internal memorandum to staff on Wednesday informing them that their salaries would not be paid for the month of April.
“It is shocking and an immediate result of the continuous changes in crucial leadership positions in PRASA that Autopax had to issue a statement on Wednesday to say that the State-owned enterprise will not be able to pay salaries this month end, owing to its major cash flow challenges,” said Untu general secretary Steve Harris.
He added that Untu will not accept Autopax’s excuse that this is the result of the ongoing bus strike that other unions in the bus transport sector embarked on last week.
“It is a Constitutional right of all workers to embark on a protected strike.”
Further, Harris commented that, by withholding employees’ salaries and stating that the company can not pay them because an adequate number of buses could not operate, is holding the striking workers ransom to return to work or else face their families being without food and shelter.
PRASA has, in the meantime, committed to resolving the nonpayment of salaries at Autopax.
Autopax has, over the past 12 months, experienced a decline in passenger numbers as a result of low customer demand due to the challenging economic environment. This resulted in the decline in expected revenue which was exacerbated by the current bus strike which saw the company having to cancel critical operations.
“PRASA is appalled at the issuing of [such an] irresponsible memorandum to staff, causing unnecessary pain and anguish, especially since I had given a clear instruction to the Autopax interim CEO Kathi Khena to use the allocations reserves to pay staff salaries with immediate effect,” said PRASA CEO Lindikaya Zide.
PRASA had forwarded Autopax a loan of R50-million at the end of March, which could have been used to pay staff.
Zide issued an instruction again on Thursday to Autopax to pay the salaries immediately.
“PRASA is clear, staff salaries must be paid [on Thursday] without delay. Assurance has been given by Autopax that all salaries have been loaded.
“The issuance of this alarmist memorandum by Autopax to staff will be fully investigated to ensure that no PRASA staff member will experience such anguish again,” assured Zide.