The Department of Transport in the Eastern Cape has served traffic officers who embarked on an illegal strike with a letter saying they should explain why they should not be suspended for four months without pay.

The 40 officers embarked on an illegal strike following the introduction of a 24-hour shift by the department.

Both the department and workers could not reach a consensus during discussions over the change in shifts, with the department saying most road crashes happen overnight and in the early hours of the morning.

The traffic officials have not been on duty for two months, prompting the department to take harsh action against them.

Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (POPCRU) Provincial Chairperson, Loyiso Mdingi, says the union is fighting against any possible dismissal or unpaid suspension of the officers.

“Initially, the employer wanted to dismiss all of them and then I engaged on behalf of the organization not to do that, looking at the number first. I asked the question, how do you begin to dismiss so many traffic officers? What about their families? We agreed that they are not going to dismiss, but they are going to suspend. And then we asked for how long? They said six months. I said ‘no’, they cannot do that,” says Mdingi.

Provincial Transport Department Spokesperson, Unathi Binqose, says the four months suspension of the traffic officers is in process, pending an appeal against the decision.

“It was a proposal from the department as informed by the start that a lot of accidents happen when our officers are not on duty in the wee hours of the morning or late at night. So we had proposed, as called upon by RTMC (Road Traffic Management Corporation) at a national level, to rather have a 4-hour shift and we are quite keen on it. The stats do not lie, but we are not agreeing with them at all, so that is why the process to suspend them is in process,” says Binqose.