Workers affiliated with the National Education Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) in Parliament are threatening strike action next year – which could affect the opening of Parliament and the provincial legislatures – if their salary demands are not met. This comes after salary negotiations in the legislative sector collapsed for the 2021 and 2022 financial year.
Workers are demanding an increase of 4% while the management of parliament says it is only willing to offer a once-off 3% cash payment.
In 2015, the management of parliament and the trade union Nehawu were in a protracted battle, with the union demanding performance bonuses and better conditions of service.
The union says their initial demands were for an 8% increase for the 2021 and 2022 financial years, but this was later revised to 4%.
It says the decision to withdraw from the negotiations was taken after the Legislatures Employers Organisation (LEO) representing the eight provincial legislatures as well as the national parliament in Cape Town could not accept its offer.
The Western Cape legislature is the only province that is not part of the central bargaining council. National Co-ordinator of Nehawu in the legislative sector, Sthembiso Tembe, says its members cannot afford to live on the once-off 3% cash payment the employers are offering.
“We made our demands because if you look at the things that I have mentioned: the issues of fuel, the issues of repo rates, the issues of electricity, the issues of food, the issues of transport, and the fact that we have to pay medical aid, the fact that in January schools are opening, we have to pay school fees – it does not respond to our list,” explains Tembe.
Most of the business of parliament is conducted through virtual platforms due to COVID-19. This includes the State of the Nation Address in Parliament by President Cyril Ramaphosa, and the addresses by Premiers in the various provincial legislatures.
The union has vowed to cause disruptions in all of the platforms of parliaments next year if their demands are not met.
“We have also met our members to say next year we will embark on strike which means other businesses of parliament like the State of the Nation…like the State of the Provinces Address, Committee Sittings and everything that is associated with parliament won’t continue as normal. We will do our best to disrupt it because we want the attention of the employer. We want the employer to be sensitive to the plight of workers. Workers are suffering,” Tembe explains.
Tembe has blamed senior management in parliament for the impasse.
“And the challenge that we have is that we do have a lot of arrogance. For instance, when we met here in Cape Town on the 9th and 10th, there was none who was representing parliament in the negotiations and the parliament is the leading figure in terms of disrupting the objectives of the sector. And yet, they are the ones who are raising this issue to say they cannot afford it, yet they have made so many savings which are close to three hundred million and the projections are that they will underspend again for this financial year,” Tembe adds.
Tuma Moopelwa, who is the cluster convener for the South African Legislature’s Secretaries Association, was not available to comment.