Parliament staff boycott Sona

2015-02-11 19:22

Hundreds of parliamentary workers are set to stay away from Parliament tomorrow, protesting the institution’s alleged failure to accede to demands for improved work conditions.

It will be the first time in the history of the democratic Parliament that staff will not participate in the State of the Nation Address, the highlight of Parliament’s calendar.

The workers, who are members of the National Education Health and Allied Workers Union [Nehawu] say Parliament has failed to meet their demands for better working conditions and mainly a demand for the 13th cheque.

Nehawu leadership in Parliament announced this afternoon that its members with the exception of protection services and few essential staff members, will withdraw from assisting in Sona processes.

Over the years, Parliament employees including admin staff and researchers normally help as ushers among other things during the event.

The resolution to withdraw their services came after a meeting between staff members and the newly appointed secretary to Parliament, Gengezi Mgidlana, who is Parliament’s accounting officer.

Staff members claim that Mgidlana failed to give them a written commitment acceding to their demands. But, what broke the camel’s back was Mgidlana leaving the meeting with staff saying he had to rush to “a more important meeting with ministers”.

Parliament has not responded to requests for comment regarding today’s developments.

“Our demands are the improvement of the conditions of service, in particular the 13th cheque. We also want the management to be co-operative and also stop being arrogant,” said Nehawu branch chairperson in Parliament, Sthembiso Tembe.

“We also demand that the comrades who have been here for 10, 20 or 30 years be given financial incentives when they leave. As things stand, they get a mere certificate, that is unfair,” he added.

He said they also want Parliament to contribute to medical aid and housing subsidy. It has not been doing so for the past seven years, he said.

He said they would not participate in the Sona activities because Mgidlana failed to respond adequately to their demands.

“We had requested him to reduce his commitment in writing and he did not do that. He left before the end of the meeting saying he has another meeting with ministers. He left the workers sitting there, he is arrogant, he undermined the workers,” said Tembe.

A number of employees were more shocked and upset with Mgidlana’s departure from their meeting with him. They said this was a sign of arrogance.

Tembe said protection services staff, because their job description is to be in Parliament 24 hours a day would participate. Procedural officers and chamber assistants will also work as it is part of their job description to work when Parliament is sitting.

Caterers, who normally start work at 4am for Sona to prepare the lavish cocktail dinner for MPs, their guests and invited dignitaries will only work the normal 8am to 5pm shift tomorrow, according to the union.

“But for the rest, there will be no voluntary services towards Sona tomorrow,” he vowed. He said they were recalling drivers who are supposed to pick up guests from the airport.

“Those comrades who work until 5pm will work until 5pm, and will go home whether they have finished what they were doing or not,” added Tembe.

“Not even the parliamentary choir will be participating in the Sona, watch Morning Live tomorrow morning,” added one of the Nehawu shop stewards.

Nehawu claims that it has 960 members out of Parliament’s 1345 staff compliment. This week, they have been wearing red Nehawu T-shirts to work which in itself is uncharacteristic of Parliament employees.

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