Unions accuse MEC of abuse

2013-08-02 00:00

FOR the past 23 months six workers from KwaZulu-Natal’s Agriculture and Environmental Affairs department have received a full salary while sitting at home.

However, six new appointments have been made to fill these posts.

These were among the allegations four public service unions made yesterday, as they threatened to go on strike over alleged unfair labour practices.

They claim these practices have destroyed morale and resulted in some of their members suffering from anxiety, depression and uncertainty about their future.

All their fingers point to one man, KZN MEC for Agricultural and Environmental Affairs Meshack Radebe, who they want Premier Zweli Mkhize to sack.

Radebe is alleged to have interfered in administrative processes, including the employment and transfer of staff.

The National Education, Health, and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu), the Health and Other Service Personnel Trade Union of SA (Hospersa), the Public Servants’ Association (PSA), and the National Union of Public Service and Allied Workers (Nupsaw) have threatened to bring the department to its knees if their concerns are not addressed.

In a joint media briefing held in Durban, union leadership expressed their annoyance at “the high level of exploitation of workers by Radebe”.

They said at least six officials were collectively earning about ­R2 165 397 while sitting at home for the past 23 months, while seven employees in the Supply Chain Management (SCM) directorate were allegedly wrongfully transferred.

Nehawu provincial chairperson Thobile Nkosi said the affected employees had served under former MEC Lydia Johnson, but became redundant when Radebe brought in his own staff.

“He firstly moved workers from the supply chain management directorate without discussing anything with them and replaced them with his own people. Some were moved to the human resources and research directorates to positions they had not applied for,” she said.

According to documents in possession of The Witness, seven officials from the SCM directorate who were moved around by Radebe won their arbitration case in October 2012 and were to have been transferred back to their positions by January 2013 in terms of the arbitration ruling.

Hospersa head of collective bargaining Sean Adkins said they were not against the processes in the department but wanted things to be done according to the law.

“We object to the running of the department as the private enterprise of the MEC,” he said.

However, Environmental Affairs provincial spokesman Jeffrey Zikhali dismissed the unions’ concerns as “not factual”.

Radebe had conducted an internal investigation and the provisional outcome had indicated that the staff members in question were reporting for work, but were not satisfied about the way in which their redeployment was handled.

Radebe, who is on an official overseas visit, would address the issues further on his return, Zikhali said.

“After the initial meeting with the MEC, the concerned staff members were assured that the matter will be handled in a professional manner and according to the Labour Relations Act.”

The unions urged Premier Zweli Mkhize to act on the matter immediately, and called for Radebe’s removal.

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