Workers prepare to deliver another Post Office strike

2015-02-15 15:00

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There’s more drama brewing at the SA Post Office as the Communication Workers’ Union (CWU) prepares to hit back against what it calls a “witch-hunt” among its workers.

The union has approached the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) to prepare for another strike – one that would follow months of crippling work stoppages last year.

The Post Office revealed last week that six of its employees in Tshwane had been convicted of contempt of court because they didn’t stick to an interdict preventing a strike last year.

The six, whose names are known to City Press, were sentenced in November in the Pretoria Magistrates’ Court to a fine of R6?000 each or 12 months in prison.

Their sentences were wholly suspended for three years. The Post Office says there are other cases in the pipeline that may result in arrests, including one against eight employees in Bloemfontein who have been suspended and face criminal charges.

Additionally, about 100 Post Office employees will be internally charged for the disruption of operations on January 15 at Cape Mail. They will be charged according to the disciplinary code as well as the Postal Services Act.

This is a tough push back against strikers who brought the Post Office to a standstill last year during a prolonged battle about casual workers versus permanent employees.

Alan Rycroft, the deputy dean of law at the University of Cape Town, said there had been criticism around using the interdict mechanism to deal with strikes, because the ordinary principles of civil procedure may be waived by the judge in interdict cases.

“The interdict gives applicants – usually employers – a tactical advantage because the likelihood of a full trial is in most cases small and the employer’s widely expressed assertions of ‘interference with business’ or ‘extreme violence’ become prima facie evidence, which the union has to disprove,” Rycroft said.

But in the case of violence, an employer has little option but to turn to the courts, he added.

Simo Lushaba, the administrator tasked with stabilising the Post Office last year, said the organisation would have no “leniency whatsoever to acts of intimidation or damage to the SA Post Office property that we witnessed during the previous strike. We will continue to take action against any employees whose actions unduly disrupt our services, overstep the laws of the country or the rights of anyone associated with our business.”

But the CWU’s general secretary, Aubrey Tshabalala, claimed Lushaba’s actions were just causing more chaos at the Post Office.

“We had no problem moving on from the strikes and saying that from now on there would be no unlawful conduct,” said Tshabalala.

He alleged Lushaba was not consulting or working with the union: He “implements what he wants to and suspends and charges workers”.

“They seem to be targeting workers who are CWU-aligned,” added Tshabalala.

He said the union was gearing up for a legal strike and had already approached the CCMA.

“Based on the stubborn stance and intransigence by Lushaba, we find ourselves left with few options. The workers’ patience has been tested to the limit,” he said.

“We have already mobilised our members and they’re edgy and ready to go on the streets.”

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