The taxi association Santaco says Cosatu’s threats to strike should the government not revoke its decision to allow taxis to operate at 100% of capacity is “unfortunate”.
Santaco says its battle with the government is not just about taxi associations, as Cosatu argues, but also about protecting the jobs of numerous semi-skilled workers in the industry. Santaco says the union, as protector of those workers, has so far let them down.
Philip Taaibosch, president of Santaco, says that in addition to taxi drivers, there are also numerous car washers and dealers who rely on the taxi industry to earn an income and that the initial isolation period hit them just as hard.
Taaibosch says it is malicious of Cosatu to claim the government has thrown workers for the wolves in favor of the taxi industry and this indicates that the union has no idea what has been going on in the industry since the isolation period.
“The government’s decision to allow taxis to operate at full capacity was simply the result of a month of difficult council chamber discussions between Santaco and the government that unfortunately ended up in the public domain.
“We therefore want to assure South Africa that, contrary to what people think, the government has not succumbed to the demands of the taxi industry.”
Santaco says long-distance taxis in that case had to be allowed to operate at 100% of capacity and then also without the permits that passengers need at this stage.
“Santaco accepted the government’s decision, not because it was a comprehensive solution to the taxi industry’s problems during the isolation period, but largely because it was a common concession between the parties,” Taaibosch said.
The trade union Hospersa, meanwhile, said the decision to allow taxis to operate at full capacity was the death knell for the fight against Covid-19 and could put an end to the already struggling healthcare system.
“Commuters can just as well start writing their obituaries and give the government the credit for their untimely death.”
Hospersa described the decision as “reckless”.
“More than 300 000 South Africans have already tested positive for the deadly virus and numbers are expected to skyrocket even further when such reckless decisions are made. The decision will increase the risk of transfer among the many health workers who use public transport to commute to and from work and will push the health sector to the brink of collapse because more workers will have to go into self-isolation, ”said Noel Desfontaines, general secretary of Hospersa, said.
According to Desfontaines, the decision is also in conflict with regulations on social distance enforcement.
“We call on the government to reverse the decision and renegotiate with taxi operators, especially now that the country is approaching the Covid-19 peak period.”