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Commuters stranded as rail strike kicks off
 
Trains accross the country came to a standstill as 11th hour talks between unions and employers failed to yield results.
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Trains accross the country came to a standstill as 11th hour talks between unions and employers failed to yield results.

In excess of two million passengers were left stranded this morning as the first day of metrorail strike action kicked off.

The South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu) and United Transport and Allied Trade Union are demanding a 16% wage increase with employer, the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa staying firm with their 5% offer.

"There was an off-the-record meeting yesterday where we failed to come to agreement and we decided on the strike," said Satawu negotiator Robert Mashego.

All three parties did agree to continue talks, under the auspices of the CCMA, at 2pm on Monday. Meanwhile, the violent and crippling Transnet strike has continued.

"SATAWU, Utatu and Transnet senior management met over the weekend and we have moved from 16% to 13%. But the company remained firm at 11% and said they had reached the end of their mandate," said SATAWU negotiator Robert Mashego.

The Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa) - parent company of Metrorail and Shosholoza Meyl - said the complete shutdown was a strategy to "protect customers and employees, and protect the assets of Prasa".

The shutdown will cause massive inconvenience for up to 2 million passengers a day who use Metrorail in Gauteng, the Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape.

On Sunday, Prasa said all ticket offices would be closed during the strike. Also, Metrorail and Shosholoza Meyl would not be offering alternative transportation while the strike lasted.

In the past week, more than half of Transnet's staff embarked on a protected strike, in which the "no work, no pay" policy will apply.

Parliament's portfolio committee on public enterprises chairwoman Vytjie Mentor has called on all parties in the Transnet wage dispute to speedily find a solution.

This would be good for all because a prolonged strike would severely harm the economy, she said.
Transnet spokesman John Dludlu said that while the strike was protected, it had been marred by acts of violence and sabotage, in apparent disregard of a court order preventing union leaders and their members from violence, vandalism and intimidation.

Early estimates already put the cost of damage to Transnet assets at R24-million. As a result of tampering with infrastructure, two engines were derailed in Witbank on Thursday, while on Friday, a train carrying fuel to Swaziland was derailed between Empangeni and Stanger in KwaZulu-Natal.

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