Factional battles killing young nurses union

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The nurses' union was affiliated with the SA Federation of Trade Unions until it dissociated itself because of factional battles that led the union to drive in its own lane. Photo: YNITU
The nurses' union was affiliated with the SA Federation of Trade Unions until it dissociated itself because of factional battles that led the union to drive in its own lane. Photo: YNITU

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The Young Nurses Indaba Trade Union (YNITU) has accused the registrar of the department of employment and labour of trying to plunge the union into disrepute.

In a statement released following its receipt of the letter from the registrar, the union expressed shock, not just at the former's intentions, but the reasons provided in the letter, which subsequently made the rounds last week.

This was after the registrar allegedly tried to cancel the union's registration from the department.

"We have been complying with all aspects of the regulations as defined by the Labour Relations Act (LRA)," the union said in its statement, adding that it questioned the department's conduct because the "letter was leaked and shared on social media before we were even officially informed, and before we could even formally respond to the department".

However, according to the letter - which sought the union to make representations within 60 days to substantiate why it should not be cancelled as a registered trade union - YNITU had "ceased to function in terms of its constitution, and as a result thereof, the organisation ceased to function as a genuine trade union as envisaged in the LRA".

A spokesperson for the department, Teboho Thejane, told City Press that this was in relation to the union's second national congress, which it held from October 29 to October 31 2021.

"The union failed to hold a national congress, which is in line with its constitution. It contravened its own constitution in a manner of the congress processes for it to be in good standing as a union," he said.

However, the union was adamant that the department had "an agenda".

READ: Young nurses in Gauteng not paid for three months – Denosa

"We have to wonder whether there isn’t an agenda to attack YNITU’s reputation in public or if this is not an attempt to derail the union from its mission of being admitted to the Public Health and Social Development Sectoral Bargaining Council," the union said in a statement.

While the union expressed shock at the intentions and reasons, it went on to say it was not surprised by what had transpired and why it was under attack.

It said: 

We are the most militant trade union in the health sector and we know there are many people, particularly within the department of health, who loathe our existence because we are a permanent pain in the butt of the establishment.

They know the reasons

However, the union's former second deputy, Yanga Booi, said the union was aware of the reasons the registrar had taken the decision it had.

Booi told City Press how he and two others who formed part of the national office bearers of the union were ousted by the organisation following its congress last year.

He explained that they wrote to both the department of employment and labour and the SA Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) to dispute the processes and validity of the congress as it did not form the quorum.  

"A bogus congress," he said.

"It was a national elective congress which was attended by only 36 delegates, including those who joined it virtually. That on its own does not reach the quorum, so, that congress could not actually make decisions. The first issue we put forth was regarding the very same congress that was convened and how it did not meet the standard of its constitution. It did not meet the quorum. It lacked all the principles of hosting a congress. And we highlighted a lot of other issues."

The constitution of the union states that two-thirds of the total members of the union had to be present to formulate a quoram.

He added that at the time, the organisation had about 13 400 numbers on the system and members who were in good standing at the time were about 7 500.

READ: 'We are overwhelmed' - nurse laments working conditions at Steve Biko Academic Hospital

But, according to the general secretary of the union, Lerato Mthunzi, Booi’s allegations are false.  

“He was simply not nominated nor voted for. He is just bitter because congress discarded him. He went to the bank to submit a fraud resolution, saying he was the union's leader after the congress," she explained, adding that the union opened a police case against Booi and two other former members.

Hijacking of the union's bank account

Backing Mthunzi's statement, president of the union Richard Sicina took the time to expand on why a case was opened against Booi.

“The bank told me they were approached by individuals under the guise of being leaders of the union and hijacked its bank account," Sicina said in a media virtual briefing held last week Saturday.

He explained that individuals attempted to change the account's transactional limits.

"They said they were YNITU leaders, and that our general secretary, who was the signatory on the bank account at that time, was no longer a member of the leadership, let alone the union." 

How the union divorced its federation

The nurses' union was affiliated with Saftu until it disassociated itself because of factional battles that led it to drive in its own lane. Saftu's spokesperson Trevor Shaku explained to City Press that the federation intervened upon receiving complaints about the unconstitutional congress from other national office bearers.

Upon completing the consultation process that basically probed the congress status, Saftu found out that indeed, the YNITU congress held at Premier Hotel in Kempton Park did not form a quorum, and thus the elections and all decisions taken there were invalid.

Shaku further explained that the federation recommended that a new congress be convened and the federation would play a crucial role in assisting the union with preparation.

However, the union served the letter to disassociate itself from Saftu.

“Allegations were made by the other set of national office bearers of YNITU that called for the intervention of the federation," he said, adding that the federation was informed of a criminal case that was opened against Booi and two others.

"We were also made aware that the bank was approached by them to freeze the account of the union on the strength of these allegations."
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