Danger pay for parly bouncers

2017-05-07 07:02
Fracas in the National Assembly. (Lerato Maduna, City Press)

Fracas in the National Assembly. (Lerato Maduna, City Press)

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Parliament will start paying its white-shirt bouncers a danger allowance.

It emerged this week that the so-called bouncers, officially referred to as “chamber support officers” in Parliament’s organogram, would receive R400 a month when Parliament was in session because of the dangers at work. They were hired to remove disruptive MPs.

Several parliamentary sources said they believed the amount to be R800 a month, but Parliament officially set the amount at R400.

“It is common knowledge that they often suffer injuries as a result of physical assault, which in the past has resulted in hospitalisation and the need for professional counselling,” confirmed parliamentary spokesperson Moloto Mothapo.

The danger pay, in effect, changes the bouncers’ terms and conditions of employment. This at a time of a pending labour action by ordinary parliamentary protection officers over the preferential treatment given to these bouncers.

Parliament’s R400-a-month danger fee is equivalent to what is paid to members of the SA Police Service (SAPS), the bouncers’ previous employers.

However, Parliament dismissed this, saying the danger pay was not a change in terms of conditions of employment.

“The allowance does not change employees’ conditions of service; they remain the same. Compensation for risky and harmful duties in a workplace is an obligation every employer has under the law over its employees,” said Mothapo.

However, in Parliament’s response to City Press’ query, Mothapo also said the danger pay was “an additional compensation above basic compensation granted to employees serving in risky and harmful situations”.

The compensation of the bouncers is the subject of a court action, as they are hired at significantly higher salaries and at better terms and conditions than ordinary protection officers who have worked in Parliament for many years.

A total of 69 longstanding protection officers took Parliament to the Labour Court in December for unfair discrimination, claiming that the legislature did not follow normal human resources processes and, as a result, they were denied a chance to apply for the new posts.

This after Parliament moved speedily in July 2015 to recruit police officers from SAPS to become part of its protection services, in a bid to enforce a new rule which provided for disruptive MPs to be forcefully removed from the House.

The new officers were hired at a better annual pay of up to R150 000 more than the existing team of parliamentary protection service officials.

In responding papers, Parliament said the new posts provided for critical skills and capabilities, including the ability to effectively handle disruptions in the House and the “safe physical removal of MPs”.

It said its existing protection officers lacked the skills to do this.

Parliament moved to hire active police officers into its protection services following various disruptions of sittings addressed by President Jacob Zuma. Since then, these bouncers have been deployed each time Zuma is in the House.

Economic Freedom Fighters MPs have fought back on three occasions when being removed from the House. It was only after this year’s state of the nation address that Parliament revealed that eight of its protection officials suffered injuries while escorting MPs out of the chamber and had to receive medical and counselling services.

Parliament said these officials were beaten with plastic hats and bricks, and punched.

Parliament also claimed in court papers that the bouncers accompanied MPs on oversight visits and attended its portfolio committee meetings.

This week, Mothapo said the chamber support officers were exposed to physical harm or danger in the course of their duties. He said paying the danger fee was in line with universal best practices regarding employees who engaged in risky professional responsibilities.

“These employees carry out their chamber support duties under difficult conditions, with increased exposure to risk of physical harm.”

Mothapo said that, recently, the lives of the protection officials and their families were threatened when an online intimidation campaign was created, with their names and faces being circulated widely on social media, encouraging attacks against them.

“So, at their jobs they are confronted with the reality of physical injuries, while outside of their jobs, they and their families suffer humiliation, insults and threats of targeted attacks,” he added.

“The reality is that the allowance, necessary as it is under the law, does not even compare to the kinds of risks they are often exposed to in ... carrying out their parliamentary duties.”

Four Parliament employees told City Press they were sure the danger pay was R800 a month, but Mothapo denied this, calling it “a deliberate exaggeration to create shock”.

Sthembiso Tembe, chairperson of the National Education Health and Allied Workers’ Union, which represents the majority of Parliament’s staff, said that in principle, the union was not against danger fees for workers, but it was concerned that management continued to unilaterally change conditions of service without consulting the union. He said this was a breach of their recognition agreement.

Tembe said all House workers should be treated the same, with no staff getting preferential treatment. He said the danger fee should be extended to all qualifying staff.

“The danger allowance is one of the conditions of service that the union submitted as part of its demands on salary increase. We have not received any response from the management [and] yet they selectively implement to certain categories of employees, without consultation,” he said.

Tembe said this was tangible proof of management’s intention to divide workers in the protection services.

Read more on:    parliament 2017  |  politics

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