Parliament workers continue strike

2015-11-16 15:20
Nehawu members occupying the Old Assembly Chambers. Picture: Lindile Mbontsi

Nehawu members occupying the Old Assembly Chambers. Picture: Lindile Mbontsi

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Cape Town - The strike at Parliament continued on Monday, with workers resolute in their decision not to negotiate with management until money docked during their week-long industrial action was returned.

''We are continuing with the strike,'' said Sthembiso Tembe, the Parliament branch chairperson of the National Education Health and Allied Workers' Union (Nehawu).

Workers responsible for many of the functions that keep Parliament going decided to go on strike on November 6, mainly over a disagreement on how performance bonuses would be calculated.

From Monday last week striking employees have sung and danced in the precinct to drive home their demands.

Tembe said the strike by hundreds of employees would carry on, strengthened by messages of solidarity and support including from its mother body, the Congress of SA Trade Unions, Nehawu regional leadership, the SA Students Congress's national executive committee members and the chairperson the African National Congress Youth League in the province.

Pay docked

He said the union was still open to talks, but only once employees who had lost pay for being part of the strike and not reporting for work got their money back.

Last week, Tembe said some workers reported to him that their pay had been docked for the days they were on strike and he vowed they would not go back to the negotiating table until these workers had been paid back.

He acknowledged that the strike had not gone through the usual channels which provide for formal strike warnings to employers. But he added that Parliament's staff were told they were not allowed to strike because they are an essential service.

The union disputes this, saying not all staff provide essential services.

Employees on strike believe they should get a percentage increase calculated over one year's total package but Parliament believes the calculation should be based on one month's salary.

Last week Parliament secretary Gengezi Mgidlana said R50m would be needed to fund the bonuses the way staffers want it, which Parliament cannot afford.

Workers have already received a 9% increase this year but the bonus issue was not resolved.

Bonus agreement wording ‘ambiguous’

Parliament newsroom specialist Cedric Mboyisa wrote in a blog posted on News24 that the wording of the bonus agreement was ambiguous and expressed concern that they were continuing with a strike not protected by law.

Last week police fired stun grenades to get striking workers away from the entrance to the National Council of Provinces building whose corridors are linked with the National Assembly.

This was after workers had walked into committee rooms singing and clapping, leading to four of 17 committee meetings being cancelled.

Committees are where the nuts and bolts of each government department is discussed.

The water and sanitation committee that strikers disrupted was, for example, discussing the country's drought, and Water and Sanitation Department officials were in the process of fielding tough questions from opposition parties who believed the government was doing too little too late to help five provinces declared drought disaster zones.

Read more on:    nehawu  |  cape town  |  parliament 2015  |  strikes

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