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The Federation of Unions of South Africa (FEDUSA) advises members of its affiliated trade unions who wish to participate in national protest action against the implementation of the electronic tolling system on Gauteng freeways.

According to Government Gazette 35765 released on 25 October 2012, the e-tolling of Gauteng's freeways will cost motorists with e-tags 30c/km.  This was a reduction from the 40c/km decided on last year.  According to figures released by the SA National Roads Agency (SANRAL), a motorist travelling to work on the N1 from the Johannesburg CBD to Pretoria CBD would pay R6 in each direction, or R12 a day, as motorists would have to pay tolls only on certain sections of the N1.  If the motorist worked five days a week, s/he would pay about R60 a week, adding up to R2880 a year.

The e-tag tariff for motorcycles was also dropped from 24c/km to 18c/km, for medium heavy vehicles (Class B) from R1/km to 75c/km, and heavy vehicles (Class C) from R2/km to R1.50/km.  Government proposed that toll fees for e-tag users be capped at R550 a month for light vehicles

The controversial Transport Laws and Related Matters Amendment Bill was withdrawn from the National Assembly order paper at virtually the last minute on Thursday, November 22, 2012.  It will only be considered when parliament reconvenes on February 10, 2013 and will then be sent to the National Council of Provinces.

After FEDUSA joining the Section 77 Protest Action Notice against the Gauteng Open Road Tolling System last year and despite numerous efforts, discussions at the National Economic Development and Labour Council (NEDLAC) have failed to produce satisfactory solutions, reaching a deadlock in December 2011.

Since the deadlock, FEDUSA has attempted to resolve the matter in various ways, including obtaining an Advisory Opinion from the Competition Commission on the matter.  The opinion sought, was to obtain clarity on the determination of toll prices and the possible establishment of a regulatory body to oversee the balancing of interests.  In the opinion issued, the Competition Commission expressed “support for the setting up of a regulatory body to provide oversight” on the price-setting of toll fees by SANRAL.

On receiving the Advisory Opinion, FEDUSA set up a meeting with Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe.  In the meeting request, FEDUSA emphasised the concern regarding what it called a “total lack of transparency”.  The Deputy President heeded the request for a meeting and a senior FEDUSA delegation met with him to discuss the findings.

“We said that, while we appreciate the value added by this R20 billion investment, we also need to note the general dissatisfaction of our members and other citizens in the increased financial burden caused by the e-tolling process, as well as the hopes that alternative funding mechanisms can be identified.  We also emphasised the need for a regulatory body to oversee price-setting and rate increases,” said George.

Section 77 of the Labour Relations Act gives workers the right to take part in protest action to promote or defend their socio-economic interests.  Similar to any form of industrial action, it gives workers involved in the notice the right to participate in a protected strike.

“We advise members of trade unions affiliated to FEDUSA that they may participate in the national protests, unless they are part of essential services.  We are sending a notice to proceed with the protest action to NEDLAC today, meaning that they will be fully protected by the law.  However, they must bear in mind that the rule of “no work, no pay” will apply as with any other form of industrial action, but they can rest assure that they will not be subjected to disciplinary action if they participate,” said FEDUSA General Secretary Dennis George.

Current protest plans will commence with a march on 30 November 2012, at 9:00 on Mary Fitzgerald Square, in Newtown.  Protesters will depart at 11:30 and march to the Department of Transport.  The march in Pretoria will start at the same time in Sophie De Bruyn Street and proceed to the Department of Transport and Department of Finance.

More protests are planned on 6 December from 05:00 onwards.  The aim of these protests will be to close major freeways in Gauteng.  In Ekurhuleni the protests will in all probability affect parts of the N12, N17, N3 and R21, and in Pretoria sections of the N1, N4 and the R21 are likely to be closed.  In Johannesburg itself, the N1, M1, M2, and N12 will be affected.

“However, we must openly appeal to members to refrain from any form of violence, intimidation or damage to property.  FEDUSA has always been a disciplined grouping and we urge members to apply discipline when they exercise their democratic right to strike,” George warned.