Privatisation of Post Office ‘not the answer’

2014-10-27 08:00

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The privatisation of the crisis-hit Post Office does not appear to be an option.

Both the department of telecommunications and postal services, and majority union the Communication Workers’ Union (CWU) appear to be in agreement about this.

“The SA Post Office reaches even the most rural areas. This footprint could be used to extend government services to South Africans,” said Siya Qoza, spokesperson for the department.

“It is also an institution that can be used to extend access to ICT and financial services, especially to the poor.”

President of the CWU Clyde Mervin said the union was against privatisation.

But he appeared to believe the government was planning to privatise. He said the union was “reading between the lines” of the medium-term budget speech given on Wednesday by Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene. The union would be organising a march to the ministry in protest this week, he said.

The postal strike is now entering its ninth week. It started after a dispute about the process of converting workers from casual to permanent employment.

Mervin said the Post Office had given a proposal to workers and they were submitting a counterproposal. He would not divulge details of either.

“Once the company agrees to our proposal, then workers will have no problem returning to work,” he said.

Post Office employees have been involved in various unprotected strikes since January.

The Post Office’s flexible labour strategy to convert 7?945 casual workers into permanent employees was adopted last year. Workers are said to be frustrated at the slow rate of the process.

The strike has also turned violent, and on Monday the Belle Ombre and Atteridgeville post offices in Pretoria were closed for repairs – and a police investigation launched – after both were petrol-bombed.

According to the Post Office, the damage was minor and restricted mainly to scorch marks on floor tiles. No employees were injured.

“Ending the violence and intimidation of this industrial action, and the workers’ getting back to work, will certainly ameliorate the situation in the short term. This will also enable the Post Office to start delivering services again,” said Qoza.

He said the Post Office had informed the ministry that no party had declared a dispute, meaning the industrial action was unprotected and illegal.

The long-overdue financial statements have still not been published as the Post Office is in dispute with the Auditor-General about some of its numbers.

City Press understands that Minister Siyabonga Cwele and the management of the Post Office will appear before Parliament on October 31.

On the financial situation at the Post Office, Mervin said the organisation could not plead poverty and then give management a 26% salary increase.

A former Post Office employee who asked not to be named said he had worked at the organisation for almost three years in a managerial position, but had been dismissed for trying to flag blatantly corrupt dealings and wasteful expenditure.

He said he was there when the Post Office moved premises from a building it owned to one it had to rent in Pretoria.

“They spent so much money on rental and on the move. And so much had to be fixed – and more money was spent on that.”

He also said there was much duplication

of work.

“An employee would do something, and then the same work would be outsourced to someone else, usually to an outside contractor who was related somehow to someone inside the organisation,” said the employee.

“And there are so many employees on paid special leave. So they are being paid and they are not doing any work,” he said. “And so the money-wasting continues.”

He said he was placed on special leave after he was suspected of accessing internal files to report an irregular contract.

“Certain individuals are benefiting from keeping the Post Office in this state. As long as that keeps happening, nothing will change over there,” he said.

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