Sipho* is 45 years old and a long-haul bus driver on the Johannesburg – Pietermaritzburg – Umtata route. He has been doing this job for over ten years.
On 18 April he joined the bus strike which has entered its third week.
Sipho says he earns about R10,000 a month. A father of four, he is struggling to pay school fees for his two children and he has had to withdraw his two older children from a tertiary institution because he cannot cover their costs. His wife is unemployed.
Sipho says he doesn't get to spend time with his family in Umtata. "Sometimes I arrive in Johannesburg in the morning ... Then I get a call that I am off [that day]. This doesn't give me time to plan my day. I just end up going to the place where the company pays for accommodation to eat and wash ... The following day I will be on duty."
He said there isn't a proper duty roster; he never knows ahead of time when he will be off duty.
He says the employer only pays for the hours he drives the bus. He starts at 6am inspecting and loading the bus, and helping check-in passengers. But the employer only pays from 8am when he starts driving.
Again, at journey end, about 3am, he helps with offloading, picking up litter, and attending to passengers. This can take him until 6am. The employer does not compensate him for this time either.
There are two drivers on the journey who share the driving. "I get R400 allowance [for being on the road], which I [have to] share with the other driver," he said.
GroundUp contacted the employer but the company refused to comment.
On Thursday he was looking forward to the wage negotiations. He hoped the employer would agree to at least a 10% increase, even though he wants, and the union initially demanded, 12%.
Zanele Sabela‚ spokesperson for the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (SATAWU) said on Thursday, "Employers made good on their threat to revert back to the [CCMA] mediator's proposal of 8% for the first year and 8.5% for the second year."
On Thursday evening a press statement by bus companies said that "negotiations have once again collapsed and unions have indicated that they will revert to their previous demand of a 12% increase".
It said the industry average salary for a bus driver is R16,000 per month, about the same as the average monthly salary for high school teachers. The average annual wage increase in the bus industry over the last ten years was 9.22%.
However, the website payscale.com gives the median bus driver monthly salary as R8,570 per month.
The strike continued on Friday.
* Not his real name