The SA National Defence Force Union, Sandu, has welcomed the SA National Defence Force's undertaking to pay Fifa World Cup allowances as well as salary increases in November, but said it was still cautious. Photo: Masi Losi, Pretoria News
The SA National Defence Force Union, Sandu, has welcomed the SA National Defence Force's undertaking to pay Fifa World Cup allowances as well as salary increases in November, but said it was still cautious. Photo: Masi Losi, Pretoria News

Army unions threaten strike

By Hlengiwe Nhlabathi Time of article published Oct 27, 2010

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Military trade unions on Wednesday gave the government until November 5 to pay their World Cup deployment allowances or face another mass protests.

“... We implore President (Jacob)Zuma to act decisively and pronounce on the fact that our soldiers were not paid,” national secretary of the SA National Defence Force Union, Pikkie Greeff told journalists in Pretoria.

“Ever since the retirement of president Nelson Mandela, successive presidents have played little role in the affairs of the SA National Defence Force.”

About 10 000 troops were still owed R30 000 each. The department had promised to finalise payments by this month, but nothing had happened so far.

Members of the SA Police Service received their allowances.

Greeff claimed all platforms, including collective bargaining and even arbitration, had effectively been closed to SANDF members and their unions.

“The only avenue still available to them are national, public protests... We can't in a democracy such as ourselves have a defence force that deploys its troops and does not pay them,” he said.

“We want to know what the commander (in-chief Zuma) is going to do about it. His troops are walking around... they are hungry, they are unpaid and quite severely upset.”

Greeff said this negatively affected morale. Making false promises to soldiers was an act of subversion.

“It can lead them to revolt.”

Last year's national strike was marred by soldiers trying to scale the perimeter fence of the Union Buildings on August 27. Asked how they would avoid similar violence, Greeff said: “We can't do anything when provocateurs are planted.”

Deputy president of the SA Security Forces Union, Charles Jacob said mass action was their constitutional right.

He said people blindly pointed fingers at soldiers and the union while their call for a probe into their conditions of employment landed on deaf ears. The unions insisted agent provocateurs had been planted among striking soldiers to cause chaos.

Defence Minister Lindiwe Sisulu's utterances that she didn't recognise unions and wanted to do away with them undermined the Constitution, he argued.

“The minister can't just wish us away. Let's engage in dialogue to bring about a better defence force.”

Greeff urged Zuma to intervene, as previous salary increments announced by him in December last year had lead to “chaotic” structures within the SANDF. Lower-ranked soldiers were in some instances receiving higher salaries than their seniors.

“There is until today no publicised salary scale... it goes to the heart of the fact that the department is dangerously managed,” said Greeff.

Comment from the ministry was not immediately available. -

Sapa

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