Commuters board taxis during the nationwide bus strike in April 17 in KwaMhlanga, Mpumalanga. (Gallo Images, Thulani Mbele)
  • Government is investigating whether public transport and education should be considered essential services.
  • This would effectively bar bus drivers and teachers from striking in future.
  • But the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (SATAWU), with over 50,000 members, is opposing the proposal. 

Public transport services and basic education educators could be declared essential services in South Africa, pending an investigation by the department of labour’s Essential Services Committee. 

This will effectively bar several hundred thousand teachers, educators, bus drivers and workers in related services from striking - or even engaging "in any conduct in contemplation or furtherance of a strike".

The Essential Services Committee on Friday announced its intention to investigate whether public transport services and services rendered by educators and support staff in basic education, including early childhood development, could be considered “essential”.

Police, medical workers and most recently lifeguards are all currently defined as essential under labour legislation. 

Read: Beach lifeguards are now like doctors and police – they’re not allowed to strike

The South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (SATAWU), with over 50,000 members, said they oppose the plan.  

Their members recently left many South Africans stranded during a month-long strike.

SATAWU spokesperson Zanele Sabela said that while a transportation strike brings discomfort, it does not endanger the life, health or personal safety of anyone - which is how "essential services" are defined by the International Labour Organisation (ILO). 

“No one’s life is endangered when public transport services are interrupted. For instance, no one died during the recent bus strike,” Sabela told Business Insider South Africa. 

“Admittedly, there were delays, but no one died.”

The South African Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU) did not respond to a request for comment. 

For a list of public participation meetings to discuss the inclusion of public transport services and basic education educators to essential services, click here

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