Strike on the buses

An article in the council mouthpiece Ezasegagasini Metro, which accompanied the Mercury on Friday, September 19, 2008, had an unintended consequence when it caused an impromptu strike among staff members of Remant Alton, the company which sort of runs our bus service. The article was written by Deputy City Manager Derek Naidoo and was intended to lay to rest the puzzlement felt by most citizens when it was learnt that that the bus service had originally been been sold to Remant Alton for R70-million and was being bought back for a R405 million.

Naidoo pointed out that included in the deal were many buses that had been bought by Remant Alton since acquiring the service. He said that the R405-million purchase price included 514 of Remant Alton’s best buses and some equipment.He said that the municipality would buy a further 162 new buses which would all be leased back to Remant Alton until their contract expired in 2010. The operation of the bus service will then be farmed out to a number of smaller operators. Crucially, the article said that the deal applied only to buses and equipment and not Remant Alton staff. Accordingly, many of them went on strike leaving commuters stranded, as reported here in the Independent Online. It’s not yet clear what the outcome will be.

Dear Derek: I said before the last sale that it would be a mistake to privatise the bus service. Farming it out to small operators would be another mistake! Public transport is not something that can be done really well at a profit.

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