The National Union of Metal Workers of South Africa (Numsa) has threatened to approach the court on behalf of its members.
Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim said should the government and the taxi industry not resolve their issues, their members, who are passengers, will be caught in the middle.
This comes after Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula cancelled a planned meeting with taxi operators.
The taxi operators had been negotiating to be able to carry more passengers, and to cross provincial borders during the coronavirus restrictions.
The postponement dismayed taxi operators, who felt they had gone the extra mile to keep the economy going. They say they provided public transport during the pandemic, particularly because trains had not been running.
They said their income had taken a hit, particularly during lockdown Level 5, when their operating hours and movements were severely restricted.
Following a meeting with their branches, the South African National Taxi Council (Santaco) and the National Taxi Alliance (NTA) said the government was not taking the industry seriously. They had decided to take the “the bull by its horns” and go back to loading passengers at 100% capacity.
Mbalula said he had not lost faith in negotiating with the taxi operators, but added that the government would not tolerate lawlessness.
The minister urged taxi operators to reconsider their decision of loading their taxis to full capacity.
The dispute between the parties comes after taxi operators rejected the government’s R1.135 billion relief package to the taxi industry to aid thousands of taxis and their operators during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The taxi operators argue that the relief is insufficient and will translate to each taxi owner getting roughly R5 000, which they say will not be enough to cover costs. They would want R20 000 each, at least.
Jim said he was disappointed at the ANC and President Cyril Ramaphosa for “failing” to speedily resolve the current impasse with the taxi associations.
“This is the extremely inferior, poor, under-resourced, under-capitalised, overcrowded, cutthroat sector, which transports to work the majority of the South African working class, who are African and black,” said Jim.
Jim accused Ramaphosa and the ANC government of failing to transform the taxi industry, 26 years into democracy.
“In its current form, the taxi industry is essential to the survival of the South African racist and colonial society, and white monopoly capital (WMC) controlled economy, as it transports the bulk of low waged African and black working class – the working class which supplies the labour from which the super profits are made.
“It is, therefore, in fact in the interests of Ramaphosa’s ANC government and the current racist colonial South African economy to meet the funding demands of this sector,” Jim said.
Jim said their members, who are largely dependent on the taxi industry for transport, demand that the government must meet the funding demands of the taxi industry.
“The pandemic requires that taxis must strictly comply with the pandemic regulations. For this to happen, the government must meet the taxi industry funding demands. We also urge the taxi owners, operators and drivers not to punish with possible infections and death their fellow poor brothers and sisters who use this form of public transport, by ignoring lockdown regulations and filling up their taxis to the maximum capacity.
“We also call on the taxi associations and taxi owners to transform the industry, because workers in the taxi industry continue to be the most exploited,” Jim said.
Jim urged taxi owners to register employees for UIF, provident fund and all benefits.