Union to intensify action at Parliament

2010-09-08 13:08

The National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) today vowed to intensify industrial action against Parliament, even threatening a strike, in its wage battle with the institution.

This, after Parliament earlier said its operations were proceeding as normal despite a fourth day of lunch-time picketing by staff.

Parliament tabled its salary offer to staff yesterday during salary negotiations between management and Nehawu, Parliament said.

These negotiations were not part of the salary negotiations between the government and public service trade unions, over which public service employees embarked on a strike.

Parliament’s offer comprised two options.

Option one proposed a seven percent salary increase across the board, effective from April 1.

Option two proposed a three-year package made up of an 8.5% salary increase across the board, effective from April 1 for this financial year and, for the next two years, increases of 1% more than the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for the end of March 2011 and 2012, or the National Treasury indicative figure, whichever was higher.

If CPI was less than 4% or more than 9%, negotiations would be reopened.

If CPI was between 4 and 9%, salaries would be adjusted in terms of the CPI of March of the relevant year, plus 1%.

The Labour Relations Act designates Parliament as an essential service whose employees cannot go on strike.
If a deadlock is reached in negotiations, the parties must submit to arbitration.

“As a key institution promoting democracy, Parliament does not bar its staff from embarking on protest action, provided the protest action does not disturb the work of the institution,” it said.

Permission for protest action within the parliamentary precinct had to be obtained from the Secretary to Parliament and had to be sanctioned by Parliament’s presiding officers.

The rules regulating protest action within the parliamentary precinct were distributed to all staff on August 20.

Staff had been picketing outside working hours and Parliament’s operations were proceeding as normal without hindrance, it said.

However, in a statement later today, Nehawu said it had decided to intensify industrial action against Parliament.

During its daily picketing in front of Parliament, Nehawu announced it had written to chairperson of committees Obed Bapela, to cancel all parliamentary committee meetings during picketing.

In the event he failed to do so, committee secretaries and researchers and other support staff would withdraw their labour and join the picket line.

“Members of Nehawu are prepared to embark on an indefinite strike action as from Monday, 13 September 2010 if our demands are not met,” the union said.

“We reject all allegations that we are an essential service.

The constitution of the land says: everyone has the right, peacefully and unarmed, to assemble, to demonstrate, to picket and to present petitions.

“The LRA makes provisions for the workers to withdraw their labour as a bargaining tool,” the union insisted.
Nehawu therefore rejected “with contempt any threat or intimidation to fire our members“.

“We remind Parliament’s management that it cannot fire all its 1?000-plus employees as this will affect Parliament’s ability to pass legislation or perform oversight.”

Nehawu welcomed the invitation by Parliament’s COO Tango Lamani to reopen the negotiating process, and said it would attend the meeting tomorrow provided that a new, improved offer was tabled.

The union remained steadfast on its demands, including a 10% salary increase, it said.

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