A protest against alleged unfair treatment of workers outside the Pretoria Zoo yesterday. Thobile Mathonsi African News Agency (ANA)
Pretoria - Signs such as “zoo no food for animals” and “we demand equal pay at the South African National Biodiversity Institute” greeted visitors to the National Zoological Gardens of SA yesterday.

The workers at the National Zoological Gardens, or Pretoria Zoo, converged at the entrance to express their unhappiness with what they described as unfair treatment of the employees.

The National Trade Union Congress affiliates had been given a go-ahead to picket by the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration last month.

Union branch secretary Frans Rasethe said labour representatives had been unable to get management to pay all its employees equally and for the working conditions at the zoo to be improved.

Rasethe said the members complained about a lack of medical aid and housing allowances since they were transferred to the institute in April last year.

According to Rasethe, since their transfer from the National Research Foundation, no benefits had been paid to the workers, including in the cleaning, conservation and or feeding, finance and landscape departments.

“We tried to speak to the chief executive and they informed us they didn’t have the authority to release the funds. Our leader attempted to seek assistance from the Department of Environment, Forestry, and Fisheries.

“We will strike until our demands are met as its not fair for some people to work seven days and receive overtime pay while others don’t get it.”

He said they were not fighting with management, but for what was due to workers to be paid.

Zoo spokesperson Craig Allenby said the management was served with a notice by the union on Monday that its members intended to embark on a protected strike from Wednesday.

Allenby said measures had been put in place to ensure the well-being and safety of the animals, non-striking staff members and visiting members of the public.

He said when the workers were transferred, an agreement had been reached that conditions of service would be harmonised over 24 months. With the transfer of employees having taken place on April 2018, this period was set to expire on March 31, 2020.

“Significant progress has already been achieved in harmonising the conditions of the services of the affected employees, within the prescripts of the law.

“The SA National Biodiversity Institute is committed to meeting the deadline for harmonising the conditions of services in the agreed time-lines and have continuously ensured employees are no worse off resulting from the transfer.”

Furthermore, he said management was still open to discussions with the union to address the demands.

Pretoria News