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Pretoria - People across Gauteng will have to wait even longer for mail deliveries as the backlog at the post office piles up.
According to the South African Post Office, a postal workers’ strike began on February 12 after staff embarked on industrial action in a dispute over whether they were owed money.
On February 19, the post office won a court interdict that deemed the strike illegal, and workers have not been paid for the time away from their jobs.
The post office’s group chief executive, Christopher Hlekane, said 588 workers had been issued with termination letters on Friday as they indicated they were not willing to return to work.
He said the backlog would take “up to 15 days” to clear, but this would be a difficult task due to the reduced staff numbers.
Processing was running at 35 percent of its normal rate at the Witspos processing centre, and at 88 percent at the Tshwane centre, said Hlekane.
Distribution is apparently running at 100 percent from Witspos and 95 percent from Tshwane.
Hlekane said it was impossible to estimate how many people used the post office because even if they did not send a letter or visit a post office, bank statements or other correspondence might be sent to them.
The SA Post Office said on Monday that striking employees faced dismissal.
“Following unsuccessful efforts to resolve the illegal strike, (the post office) has initiated procedures to dismiss the postal workers who participated in the illegal strike in Gauteng,” it said.
The decision to dismiss the workers had become “unavoidable” after they failed to heed ultimatums to return to work on March 13.
The post office said the striking workers had been misled into believing they were owed pension funds. A meeting with unions and attempts to meet the strikers’ leaders had failed to yield results.
“A process at the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration, initiated to end the strike, and communication efforts to advise the employees of the source of the strike also failed.”
The post office said it had considered the sustainability of the business, and “the current illegal strike has unfortunately impacted negatively on customer service”.
The Gauteng secretary of the Communication Workers’ Union, Aubrey Tshabalala, said some workers had received letters of dismissal. The strike was sanctioned by a small group of employees and not by unions, he said.
He said union leaders were to meet last night to discuss the matter.