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Legal battle between Putco and transport dept begin

AutopPax says it’s not willing to take on the financial burden of contracting affected Putco employees.

Prasa's head office next to Park Station at Umjantshi House on Wolmarans Street, Braamfontein. Picture: Google Earth.

JOHANNESBURG - A legal battle has now started between the Gauteng Transport Department and bus operator Putco following its cancellation of services in parts of the province.

On Tuesday the High Court in Johannesburg expected to hear an urgent application by Putco regarding the employment of workers affected by its termination of eight contracts.

The company is reportedly demanding that the transport department and its new service provider, AutoPax, take over staff who worked on the cancelled contracts.

Earlier, Transport MEC Ismail Vadi announced that a three-month interim contract had been signed with AutoPax to cover affected routes in Edenvale, Mamelodi, Sebokeng and other areas.

AutopPax CEO Nathi Khena said the company wasn't willing to take on the financial burden of contracting affected Putco employees.

"We are not willing to take them with the burden and the responsibilities that were supposed to be dealt with Putco and be passed over to us but we want to take them as new employees."

AUTOPAX EXPECTING SERVICES TO RUN SMOOTHLY

AutoPax says it expects minimal disruption to commuters' trips tomorrow.

On Tuesday is the last day that Putco buses are operating in parts of the Ekurhuleni, Tshwane and Sedibeng municipalities.

While AutoPax has experience in servicing long distance routes, the Prasa subsidiary says it has not operated shorter, more frequent routes before.

Khena says officials have had almost a month to prepare the takeovers

"As the MEC indicated there will be teething problems but in the main we have done what any bus operator would do in the preparation and in the taking over of the new operation."

PUTCO AND TRANSPORT DEPARTMENT STILL IN DISAGREEMENT

At the same time, Putco and the Gauteng Transport Department are still in disagreement over the reasons behind the cancellation of eight contracts between the two.

The bus operator says it has repeatedly raised concerns over government's subsidy which it says is insufficient.

Putco md Franco Pisapia said, "We are extremely disappointed and most of all for our commuters who are losing up to R60 million a year."

The bus operator has however renewed some of its contracts with provincial government.

Vadi says Putco is fully aware that the subsidy is based on a fixed grant determined by the national treasury.

"It's not something that has suddenly been sprung upon Putco and if they feel they need to terminate their contract we respect that decision but they must not blame government."