4/3/2013 People milling around in front ot the Tshwane Miail Centre. Picrure: Etienne Creux

Pretoria - City residents have been left frustrated, having not received mail for the past two weeks as employees of the South African Post Office (Sapo), especially those at the Witspos and Tshwane Mail centres, have been on an illegal strike since February 14.

The number of striking employees ranges between 400 and 500 a day, despite the Post Office being awarded an interdict deeming the strike unprotected and illegal on February 19.

The principle of no-work, no-pay is being applied to the striking workers and on Thursday last week, the Post Office issued an ultimatum that the striking employees should either return to work or risk dismissal.

According to Sapo, employees were brought under the false impression they were owed pension money by the Post Office. “A fraudster told them that the Post Office owes them pension funds. He then collected contributions for a court case against the Post Office from each one of them,” said Chris Hlekane, chief executive of Sapo.

When nothing came of the case and employees grew impatient, the fraudster presented employees with a case number, which turned out to be the case number for a divorce.

Janras Kotsi, group executive in charge of mail business at Sapo, said management was locked in daily negotiations with the striking employees. “We are also using legal avenues to persuade them (employees) to return to work,” he said.

Alternative plans have been made to bypass the Witspos and Tshwane Mail centres and transport mail directly to the sorting centres.

“Staff from other divisions are also helping to process mail in the mail centres,” said Kotsi.

According to the Sapo, outlets are not on strike and Kotsi said they continue to operate normally.

Meanwhile, city residents have had enough. A man using the Post Office’s Tramshed branch said he had been unable to post registered letters for more than two weeks. “No mail goes out and no mail comes in. I was told my letters will lie in the back until the strike is over,” he said. He said the mail system had come to a complete standstill.

“I need to send registered letters and parcels for business but they (the Post Office) do not take them. They only take payments,” he said.

In a letter to the Pretoria News, a resident claimed to be puzzled by the strike. “I am perplexed that people who have work in a country of high unemployment can have so little concern for their jobs that they persist in an unlawful strike without justification and with apparent impunity, despite warnings,” the resident wrote.

It is not known how much mail has heaped up at the Tshwane Mail Centre, but Kotsi said some of the mail dates back to February 14, the day the strike started.

For urgent mail collections, contact the call centre on 0860 111 502.

Kotsi indicated that residents in Pretoria and Joburg should receive mail by Tuesday.

Pretoria News