PARLIAMENT - Parliamentary staff and management are set to face off on salary increases again this year after workers held a lunchtime picket on Thursday demanding that a member of the national legislature's negotiating panel be removed.
Workers sang protest songs and toyi-toyied (SA dance during protests), with some holding up a banner of the National Education, Health and Allied Workers' Union (Nehawu) banner, inside the parliamentary precinct while MPs and cabinet ministers prepared for a series of budget vote debates on Thursday afternoon.
"Our action is in defiance of management's insistence that the union must continue salary negotiations with a manager that has been fingered to have committed a financial misconduct by an audit committee report," said Nehawu's parliamentary branch secretary Temba Gubula.
Gubula was referring to a report commissioned by Parliament from its audit committee into suspended secretary of Parliament, Gengezi Mgidlana, who is being charged in a disciplinary hearing of alleged breaches of the Financial Management of Parliament and Provincial Legislatures Act and parliamentary policies.
Other managers, including the one responsible for HR, are also named in the report.
"We are not saying he's guilty but the mere fact that he has been fingered, he should then be removed from the negotiating table so that we can continue with negotiations," said Gubula.
"We can't as a union that is fighting corruption and maladministration be forced to engage with somebody that has been tainted in such a serious light."
Negotiations are now stalled. According to Gubula, Parliament had not moved on its offer of a seven percent pay rise.
"We were demaning 12% and we are now at 10.5%. They are refusing to engage us on the 13th cheque, medial aid, and housing allowances. They are sticking mainly to the seven percent."
Parliament's spokesman Moloto Mothapo said the legislature considered negotiations as an internal matter.
"The issues raised by Nehawu are matters that form part of ongoing discussions and deliberations internally between the management and the union."
In 2015, police used stun grenades to disperse Nehawu members from the parliamentary precinct after a prolonged strike, which saw workers first call for action against Mgidlana.
African News Agency/ANA