Business Maverick


Numsa cries foul as Greyhound, Citiliner bus services hit the Covid-19 wall

It is reported that the bus operator has announced that its Greyhound and Citiliner bus operations will close in February 2021 after 37 years in service. (Photo: Gallo Images / Papi Morake)

Greyhound bus service has blamed its closure on the impact of Covid-19 and travel restrictions. But the company appears to have suffered operating losses for years.

KAP Industrial Holdings, owner of the Greyhound and Citiliner bus operations, says the services will be terminated as of 15 February after 37 years in the industry. 

In a statement on 3 February, KAP expressed “deep regret” at having to close down both the services. 

“Declining passenger numbers and poor regulatory compliance in the bus passenger industry has resulted in both brands incurring significant operating losses for several years,” said KAP subsidiary, Unitrans Passenger. 

The situation was exacerbated by the impact of Covid-19 regulations which restricted inter-provincial travel, bus occupancy and the closure of the Zimbabwean and Mozambican borders, the company added. 

Despite actions taken to reduce operating costs, optimise transport routes and introduce new technology and coaches, the company was unable to turn a profit, Unitrans Passenger said. It was in the process of consulting with all the affected stakeholders in contemplation of closure of the business. 

“All tickets purchased for services after 15 February 2021 will be fully refunded and information regarding the process will be communicated through social media platforms and through the Greyhound Call Centre. Customers can contact the Greyhound Call Centre on 011 611 8000 or 087 352 0352 or email [email protected] for assistance. ” 

The closure of the bus service has prompted calls from various unions and political parties requesting the government to intervene in order to prevent the closures. And many individuals have taken to social media platforms to express their past experiences with the transport network. 

On 3 February, the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) said it had received a section 189 notice from Unitrans Passenger, stating that the company plans to close its business. 

Unitrans owns Megabus, Greyhound, Citiliner and Magic Transfers. 

Numsa spokesperson, Phakamile Hlubi-Majola, told Daily Maverick that Unitrans Passenger only informed the union about its decision on Tuesday, saying it anticipated a total closure from 15 February.

In its announcement, the company undermined the terms of the Labour Relations Act that imposes a mandatory 60-day consultation process, said Hlubi-Majola. 

“As far as we’re concerned, we expect them to follow the precepts of the Labour Relations Act and follow that process,” said Hlubi-Majola. 

“That for us is not negotiable, and we will do what is necessary to ensure that it  happens.” 

Numsa is considering its options and has not ruled out the possibility of approaching the labour court to interdict the process, said Hlubi-Majola.

Unitrans claimed that its business was negatively affected by the Covid-19 restrictions placed on travel and was operating under “extremely difficult trading conditions”, said the statement.

According to Hlubi-Majola, Unitrans Passenger also stated that it had “experienced poor financial performance for at least two years”.

Unitrans employs more than 3,000 workers in its various divisions, and about 693 employees will be affected by the closure of Greyhound, Magic Bus and Megabus services, said the statement. 

Considering the poor socioeconomic circumstances that South Africa is in now, it is highly unlikely that those workers will find employment in the near future, said Hlubi-Majola. 

Numsa is very concerned about what would happen if these workers lost their jobs, said Hlubi-Majola. 

“We really would like to do everything possible to avoid closure – and that would mean even lobbying the government for their intervention,” said Hlubi-Majola. 

According to Hlubi-Majola, this speaks to a broader issue whereby Numsa feels the government did not provide sufficient relief to workers during the lockdown, saying that the “TERS process was a total disaster” with members unable to receive their payments on time. 

“Thousands of workers, even now, still haven’t been paid,” Hlubi-Majola told Daily Maverick

“Numsa believes very strongly that the government has truly failed workers in this country in the way that it responded to this pandemic.” DM


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