The United National Transport Union (UNTU) is furious with the inability of Mainline Passenger Services (MLPS), the operator of the long distance Shosholoza Meyl train, to have a contingency plan in place when the trains are delayed.
Last night Train 71008 was stranded at Klerksdorp on route from Cape Town to Johannesburg.
Steve Harris, General Secretary of UNTU, says to adhere to Covid-19 regulations the management of MLPS decided not to allow the selling of food or drinks on the train. Passengers were informed that they needed to provide these for themselves when they bought train tickets.
“The train was long overdue, and passengers and staff had no food and drinks left. Even the water taps in the coaches ran dry. Passengers became furious and they started threatening the staff on the train who were stuck in the same predicament.
“UNTU had hoped that MLPS will be able to pull it off as the reopening of Shosholoza Meyl was postponed allowing the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) more time. But the proof is in the pudding and when the trains were delayed there was no contingency plan,” says Harris.
UNTU members reported the following measures on the train that was not in place.
– Luggage office has no protocols in place.
– No staff on duty at night to sanitize passengers as they embark train.
– No proper personal protective equipment (screening, sanitizing, gloves).
– No clean water in tanks for staff or passengers to wash hands.
– No staff trained to deal with COVID-19 protocols in workplace.
– No health and safety advisor in Cape Town.
– No COVID-19 19 program manager.
– No isolation room should one be found positive or show signs thereof.
– Staff and passengers without food when trains are delayed.
– Emergency plan not adhered to when trains are delayed.
– No backup plan when trains are delayed.
– No facilities on board to cook/warm up food or keep food cold.
– Staff deployment on trains not enough.
According to Harris this created an extremely dangerous situation amidst the deadly pandemic. The exhausted staff had no choice but to work overtime knowing that Prasa will most likely not compensate them for it.
“Prasa has withheld the overtime payment for services rendered in terms of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA) from UNTU members since March 2020. UNTU is currently awaiting judgement in the Union’s urgent application in the Labour Court to force Prasa to pay the annual wage increase and the backpay in terms of a wage agreement signed two months ago.
“Prasa wants to impress Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula, but there is no use if incidents like these happen, contradicting the promise of delivering a safe and reliable service. MLPS needs to go back to the drawing board, “says Harris.
For more information phone Harris on 082 566 5516.
Issued on behalf of UNTU by Sonja Carstens, Media & Liaison Officer. For UNTU press releases phone Sonja on 082 463 6806 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.