COSATU has presented its submission on the Railway Safety Bill to Parliament

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) presented its submission on the Railway Safety Bill to the National Assembly’s Portfolio Committee on Transport.  This is a long overdue Bill and intervention that seeks to ensure railway workers, commuters and freight can travel and arrive at their destinations safely. 

COSATU supports the progressive objectives and provisions of the Bill that seek to overhaul our often weak health and safety provisions governing our passenger and freight railway network.  Key provisions include empowering the Railway Safety Regulator and its inspectors to inspect, seize documents and other relevant evidence, and to suspend railway operations where needed in order to protect lives and cargo.

Whilst welcoming the objectives of this critical Bill, COSATU is deeply concerned about key weaknesses, omissions and problematic provisions.  Provisions that needed to be amended by Parliament include:

  • It’s limiting the Railway Safety Regulator’s inspections to between 8am and 5pm, Monday to Friday.  This defies logic when railway operations operate beyond office hours.  Limiting the powers to inspect whenever needed will seriously weaken the ability of inspectors to enforce railway safety standards and enable the culprits to hide incriminating evidence.
  • The omission of worker representation on the Railway Safety Regulator’s Board.  It is workers who run our railway network.  Their inclusion on the Board will enable them to raise serious concerns and challenges immediately, allow them to table practical interventions and solutions, and most importantly it will help to ensure the collective buy in of workers of the Regulator’s railway safety plans.
  • The separation of the Railway Safety Regulator’s employees from the general conditions of the public service.  It makes little sense for the Regulator to divorce itself from the public service regulations and conditions of service or to seek to establish a separate pension fund and medical aid from that of the GEPF and GEMS.  COSATU will not countenance any undermining of collective bargaining.
  • The complete silence of the Bill on the respective responsibilities for ensuring the safety and security or railway crossings, sidings and lines.  The continuous shifting of responsibility for this between Metro Rail and Transnet, Provincial and Local Government has resulted in the tragic deaths of children, pedestrians and commuters crossing unguarded crossings, sidings and lines.
  • The deafening silence of the Bill on any measures to respond to the devastating stripping of thousands of kilometres of cables that is crippling Transnet and Metro Rail.  This requires urgent and decisive action by government, including the immediate temporary banning of scrap copper and steal exports, the regulation of scrap metal dealers and the shutting down of dealers fuelling cable theft, the immediate deployment of the SANDF to secure the railway network, the revival of the SAPS Railway Unit and the development of alternatives to copper cables.

Whilst COSATU welcomes the progressive objectives of the Bill, its weakness and omissions need to be fixed if we are to ensure the safety of railway workers, commuters and freight.  We cannot afford a limp wristed approach when the lives and jobs of workers hang in the balance.

Issued by COSATU

For further information please contact:
Matthew Parks-Parliamentary Coordinator
Cell: 082 785 0687