Wits bus drivers driven to exhaustion over long hours

17_bus story

A LONG AND TIRING ROAD: Wits campus bus drivers have recently voiced their concerns about working overtime (often without pay) and feeling extremely tired, which has resulted in two drivers saying this compromises students’ safety. Photo: Tracey Ruff

Wits is losing bus drivers, who are complaining about their long working hours which result in exhaustion compromising students’ safety. At least seven drivers have left the university recently.

Benjamin*, who has been working as a driver at Wits for three years, has often worked from 6am to past 1am: “We, as drivers, are not happy at all”.

James*, a campus bus driver, expressed his concerns about the safety of students transported by Wits buses: “The students, they are not safe the way we are working”, said James.

“The main problem is that students are not safe. If my body is tired, everything is tired,” he added. He had been working for six days without leave, and did the night shift for 11 days without a break.

Long hours with no pay

A total of five campus bus drivers told Wits Vuvuzela that working long shifts and overtime – often without pay – has become a recurring problem.

James said that campus bus drivers are “ not happy” and are “tired”.

One said: “We don’t have time to rest and have no time for family”.

“I stay in Soweto. [After] I finish my shift, sometimes it’s hard to go home because I’m so tired.”

[pullquote]”We love working here, but it is the [working] conditions that can push us away.”[/pullquote]

“We love working here, but it is the [working] conditions that can push us away.”

Both James and Benjamin say they work overtime but do not get paid for it. At least seven drivers have left in the past few months because of these conditions, said James. This alleged shortage in drivers has led to Benjamin having to take on more hours.

“I sometimes have to double the shift because there are no drivers.”

A further three bus drivers were interviewed, with two stating that although they are only required to work 45 hours a week, they work much longer hours because of the shortage of manpower.

Of these two drivers, one said: “We are working by force, we don’t have a choice. You see, this week I’m doing 11 hours, Monday to Friday. Next week, I’m going to do 8 hours, Monday to Saturday”.

Differing perspectives

Only two of the five bus drivers interviewed said that they do get paid for working overtime, with one saying he has been working at Wits “for a long time” and “doesn’t mind” working long shifts because it is “part of his job”.

A supervisor for Luxliner coaches said that overtime was “not forced” and drivers were paid for this.

Meanwhile, Nicki McGee, Deputy Director of Transport Services at Wits University, says she had “discussed the concerns with Luxliner Management” and denied that drivers were working outside of their contract agreement in terms of working hours or working conditions.

McGee emphasised that Wits did “not conduct business with any companies” who did not comply with the Basic Conditions of Employment Act.

According to McGee, any employee of Luxliner coaches has “adequate grievance procedures which facilitate the management of such issues [as those mentioned in this article]”. In addition, “the engagement between staff, the unions and their management has been confirmed as very interactive and productive”.

Please hear us

The drivers said this was not the case.

Another bus driver, Andreas*, said the drivers are talking with management but are having continual problems with them. “They are not listening [to us],” said Andreas.

*Names have been changed as drivers are fearful of disciplinary action