Union row takes nasty turn

2011-12-10 14:07

Thousands of rands in public funds appear to have gone to waste after the SA Post Office (Sapo) commissioned an external company to conduct an audit on union membership.

The parastatal later rejected the audit’s findings, causing chaos among the unions and seeing some employees charged double for union fees.

Accounting firm SizweNtsaluba carried out the audit for R250 000 to determine which union had the highest membership at Sapo. The report found that 6 690 (48%) of Sapo’s employees belonged to the SA Postal Workers’ Union (Sapwu), a new trade union, while 6 222 (45%) belonged to the Communications Workers’ Union (CWU).

The CWU was previously the leading union at the postal and banking parastatal.

In November, Sapo released an internal statement telling its employees to disregard the findings of the audit report.

“This report has not been considered by the board to determine adequacy or otherwise of the procedures followed and therefore it has no standing,” said the statement.

Sapo spokesperson Lungile Lose gave a brief response defending the rejection of the findings.

“The report had to follow certain protocols before its release and the board acted to ensure procedural adequacy,” said Lose.

Lose did not say which procedures were not followed.

Before Sapwu was awarded recognition status in September, the CWU had been the parastatal’s only union. As a result, non-unionised employees had to pay a monthly agency fee equivalent to the CWU’s membership fee of R60. An agency fee is paid by non-unionised members to a majority union.

Sapwu’s arrival caused tension because the new union chipped away at the membership of the CWU, an affiliate of Cosatu, and thus affected the membership fees collected by the CWU.

Last month Sapwu members were charged membership fees twice. City Press saw a payslip that reflected two union membership deductions.

Lose denied that Sapo was deducting membership fees for two unions from each employee.

“Sapo and the CWU have an existing agency fee agreement in terms of which non-CWU members in the bargaining unit have to pay a monthly agency fee equivalent to the subscription fee payable to the CWU.

“The Labour Relations Act makes provision that, where members benefit from agreements reached by a union and employer, such employees may pay an agency fee. This puts a legal obligation on Sapo to deduct the agency fee from these employees,” said Lose.

Sapwu spokesperson Tutu Mokoena accused the Sapo board of abusing its powers.

“How can the board commission a report and then come up with an excuse that the management failed to follow company procedures by not presenting the report to the board first?”

He said the rejection of the audit by Sapo resulted in wasteful expenditure.

“This is irrespective of whether the management didn’t follow company procedures by presenting the report to the board first. The fact remains that the findings are legitimate and should be applied,” he said.

Mokoena confirmed that Sapwu’s members were charged membership fees twice.

“What surprises me is, despite the fact that we are the majority union in Sapo, the board went ahead to enter into a settlement agreement with the CWU where our members were forced to pay membership fees to both unions,” he said.

“How can Sapo let the CWU enjoy the benefits of a majority union, when the union no longer has that status?” he asked.

CWU spokesperson Mantakane Mothapo said Sapwu’s membership was bogus and accused a senior HR officer in Sapo of helping Sapwu to cook the numbers.

“The official and Sapwu have come up with fraudulent, flawed and corrupt findings in an attempt to try to collapse the CWU,” said Mothapo.

He added that the double deductions followed CWU’s complaints to the Sapo board that non-unionised workers were no longer paying agency fees to the union.

“At a meeting we held with the board, it was resolved that the double deductions would be made because Sapo had paid Sapwu membership fees – which belonged to us – illegally,” said Mothapo.

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