METROBUS drivers returned to work yesterday after the City of Johannesburg was granted a court interdict forcing them to end their illegal strike .
The drivers went on strike on Monday morning in protest against new routes and shift schedules , said Esther Dreyer, spokeswoman for Metrobus.
However, Nico de Jager, the Democratic Alliance spokesman for transport in the city, said yesterday he believed the drivers were upset about the changes as it made it difficult for them to skim off fares from passengers on unfamiliar routes.
"Shrinkage is a real problem with the utility, which severely affects the city’s revenue stream," he said. "We need a touch-tagging system that is tamper-proof, but this will cost in the region of R23m."
Ms Dreyer said she was not able to confirm or comment on Mr de Jager’s allegation. "As far as I am concerned, Metrobus is trying to improve its service to its commuters and it has been necessary to formulate a new route schedule and timetable," she said.
"We have a tradition that the longest-serving drivers get preference picking their schedule. But despite inviting drivers to state their preference, they did not, so we went ahead and allocated their routes."
Ms Dreyer said bus operators were informed of yesterday’s interdict and they heeded instructions to return to work .
By late afternoon yesterday, the bus service was gradually returning to normal and should be 100% operational today, Ms Dreyer said.
Independent Municipal and Allied Trade Union spokesman Simon Riekert said shop stewards had informed workers about the court interdict. "The problem is we still feel the employer hasn’t come to the party as far as negotiations are concerned," he said.
In Cape Town last week, thousands of rail commuters were stranded when train drivers embarked on a wildcat strike, also in protest against shift changes. The drivers returned to work when the Labour Court declared the strike unlawful.