The South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU) is concerned by the rising prices of fuel, and the subsequent effects such fuel costs have on the costs of commuter transport.
Prices of petrol
Petrol prices have risen to unprecedented levels with a litre of 93 unleaded petrol costing R26,31. This litre of 93 unleaded petrol has increased in price by 52% since June 2021 and 72% since March 2020. Economists predicts the prices of fuel to reach a high of R40 per litre before they subside.
Even at the height of the economic crisis in 2007/08/09, fuel prices hit its high at only R10. Of course, the general rise in prices including the devaluation of the Rand, has contributed to high prices of goods and services cumulatively over the years.
In our statement dealing with Glencore price manipulations, we noted that prices are sometimes engineered to go up by the commodity traders. Commodity traders at times (if not often) hoard “commodities and create impression of shortage so that demand could exceed supply”, and thus drive prices higher.
So, even though we recognise the pressures created by the war on the oil prices, we do not rule out the possibilities of price manipulations by commodity traders and monopoly corporations in the oil industry.
Commuter transport prices
The average increase in the prices of petrol over the past decade have led to transport corporations and organisations increasing their transport prices. This has had and continue to have dire effects on the budget of the working-class households.
For instance, the National Household Travel Survey (NHTS) reported that the total monthly cost of taxis as a mode of transport to work increased by R168 from R468 in 2013 to R636 in 2020. For buses, the transport increased by R158.
The NHT Survey further reported that it costed R110 more in 2020 (as compared to 2013) for households to pay bus and R23 more on taxis for transport to educational institutions.
In March 2022, the prices of transport begun to climb due to the fuel price leapfrogging from R19.89 to R21.36. Having grown by 72% since March 2020, the prices have caused commuter transport to increase significantly.
In News24 report, National Taxi Alliance (NTA) said the prices of their transport will increase by 20 to 35%. In the same article, a commuter reports that a taxi between Greenville and Johannesburg has increased from R18 to R25. Some long-distance taxi associations have increased their prices by R20 and others by R50.
The Household Affordability Index for June 2022 reported that an estimated cost of return trip using a taxi to work costs R1 344 and consumes 34.5% of the wages of those workers earning the minimum wage of R23.19 per hour (R3 895 of those working 21 days/8 hours, and R4 080 of those working 22 days/8 hours)
SAFTU calls for a national shutdown in protest of the rising costs of living. This is a crisis of capitalism, and the working class must refuse to bear its burden. Tied to this, is neoliberal policy which has destroyed the public transport systems of especially trains, and has condemned the working class to road transport which has unstable prices and has high probabilities of killing commuters.
The working class must fight for government to reinvest into public transport system so that commuting from our homes to work and school will not be a burden clawing our meagre wages.
Further, SAFTU calls for the nationalisation of the refineries to ensure provision of fuel at a cheaper rate affordable to the working class.