Transport Minister Jeff Radebe strongly criticised freight logistics group Transnet on Friday on reports that the utility was failing to adequately consult with those of its workers destined to be transferred next month across to the newly formed Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa, or Prasa.
Prasa, which was unveiled officially on Friday, would comprise the assets and employees of the already merged South African Rail Commuter Corporation and Metrorail, with those of Shosoloza Meyl and Autopax, which currently fell under Transnet. Further, property management and development company Intersite would also be consolidated into the 13 000-plus-employee entity.
Speaking at Prasa’s launch event at Park Station in Johannesburg, Radebe said it was “totally, totally unacceptable” for Transnet not to have already conducted thorough consultations with its affected workers.
“Transnet knew for over three solid years that Shosholoza Meyl will be transferred, while the decision [to transfer] Autopax was taken early in 2008 already,” Radebe fumed.
“The least we could do is ensure that government and its own State-owned enterprises respect the provisions of our law that protect all employees and workers,” he added.
Radebe appealed to Transnet to conclude all necessary consultations “without any further delay” so that the transfer of the businesses to Prasa could be concluded in line with the April 1, 2009, timeframe set out in enabling legislation promulgated in December by President Kgalema Motlanthe.
Prasa CEO Lucky Montana struck a more conciliatory tone, though, saying he was sure that the outstanding matters were not insurmountable.
“We had a similar process, with the same unions, when we transferred Metrorail in to the SARCC and we were able to reach an agreement,” Montana related, stressing that the transfer would not imperil any jobs.
Transnet refrained from commenting on Radebe’s statement when approached to do so by Engineering News Online and could not immediately confirmed the number of employees affected.
It is understood, though, that as many as 2 000 Transnet workers would be affected and that their respective unions were working to ensure that there was no erosion of security or benefits as a result of the transfer.