No end in sight to postal strike

The SA Post Office's casual workers have been on strike for two weeks demanding permanent positions. File photo: David Ritchie

The SA Post Office's casual workers have been on strike for two weeks demanding permanent positions. File photo: David Ritchie

Published Sep 27, 2014


Cape Town - The SA Post Office (Sapo) does not know when a protracted strike will end and post can again be delivered effectively.

On Friday, when asked for comment on the failure to end the strike which now enters its eighth week, group executive corporate affairs at the Sapo, Lungile Lose, said the issue was that labour agreements were up for review to “see where we have gone wrong”.

Asked when the strike could end, he said: “I don’t think this is a time-(frame) issue.

“We can’t meet all the demands because of affordability.

“The last published (financial) statements showed a loss.

“This will be the third year of losses after seven years of profit,” said Lose.

The main objective now was to get “a permanent solution to this problem”.

Too many labour agreements and supplementary contracts entered into with labour unions which now cannot be met lie at the heart of the strike by Sapo employees that has paralysed essential postal services and left customers seething.

The strike has severely affected depots, especially in Gauteng the Western Cape.

In Gauteng, mail centres such as Tshwane, Witspos, Germiston and Krugersdorp were either operating at minimal capacity or not at all.

In Cape Town, where postal services have been closed intermittently since January, most of the centres remained closed this week.

This was amid incidents of violence and intimidation by striking casual workers.

Sources familiar with the negotiations at Sapo traced the strike to an initial agreement, signed before the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) in February.

The agreement stipulated that about 600 striking casual workers be employed in permanent positions.

This is also revealed in an internal Sapo memorandum dated September 10, and which Pretoria News has seen, that shows that Telecommunications and Postal Offices Minister Siyabonga Cwele had “joined the Sapo executive in trying to mediate in the protracted strike”.

“The minister discovered that the cause of the recent strike was non-compliance in the implementation of the CCMA agreement dated February 11, 2014, which refers to the appointment of the 600 casual workers with Wits and Northern region into permanent positions,” the memo states, in part.

“There are too many agreements and supplementary agreements that have been entered into between labour and management. Management has not implemented most of the agreements.”

The memo also suggests the existence of divisions within the Sapo executive.

“Management seems to be working against each other in implementing the agreements and supplementary agreements.”

In terms of an agreement employees – who were earlier dismissed – had to be reinstated.

It was this agreement that prompted permanent workers who had previous agreements with Sapo to embark on a strike of their own.

“In essence, you have different agreements with different frameworks and different committees that is the sticking point,” said one source.

“The one (agreement) entailed converting some 900 contracts into permanent positions….”

After concern that Sapo workers had not been paid this week, a glitch was blamed and salaries were paid.

Lose said: “We have explained that we had technical glitches in the system that resulted in salaries being paid in batches, according to the (employees)’s respective banks.

“If any person wasn’t paid their salaries, they would have to give their details to our human resources department.”

“We were able to resolve the matter (on Thursday) and everyone was paid,” said communications officer Johan Kruger.

Kruger also said he was uncertain when things would return to normal at post offices across the country.

Saturday Star

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