Union slates Letsoalo's 350% salary hike vs 3% for Prasa workers

Collins Letsoalo.
Collins Letsoalo.

Cape Town - A trade union has criticised the former acting CEO of the Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa), Collins Letsoalo, for not even making a single attempt to engage with the leadership of labour organisations to find solutions to the crisis at the agency.

Last week salary negotiations for Prasa employees ended in deadlock after Letsoalo refused to give his negotiating team a mandate to go beyond a 3% wage increase for employees from April 1 2017.

The Sunday Times reported that he gave himself a 350% salary increase, meaning that Letsoalo, who was on an annual salary package of R1.3m, was paid R5.9m, the same amount his predecessor Lucky Montana used to receive.

Prasa's majority union the United National Transport Union (UNTU) on Tuesday said it welcomed the decision by the Prasa board "to stand up against the grave injustice taking place against its workers at the passenger rail operator".

UNTU welcomed the Prasa board's decision to "finally wake up" and dismiss Letsoalo.

The union's general secretary Steve Harris said in a statement it was clear from the first round of negotiations that Prasa did not intend to negotiate in good faith. The union is demanding a 20% salary increase.

“There was never an intention on the side of management to consider the reality their workers need to face: their medical aid contributions increased with 11% to 14%, food prices escalated due to the drought the country experienced and the real cost of living is much higher than the predicted consumer price index,” said Harris.

“In the past nine months, the acting CEO has not even once tried to engage with the leadership of the labour organisations to try and assist him in finding solutions to his crisis. That is not the characteristics of a true leader.”

The Prasa board unanimously decided to terminate the contract of Letsoalo, who had been seconded by the Department of Transport to “fix” Prasa, saying it had not approved his R5.9m salary.

Board spokesperson Nana Zenani told News24 on Monday evening that there had been a “huge” misunderstanding regarding a confirmation letter sent to Letsoalo in October 2016. She said the board was not aware of Letsoalo’s salary boost because he had not followed the right channels, which subsequently left the board “out of the loop”.

READ: Prasa CEO’s salary package not approved by the board, it says

Letsoalo justified his annual salary at a press conference held in Pretoria, saying that he had started with the “trimming” of his senior management to save costs. He warned against the total collapse of Prasa thanks to its deficit of R2.3bn.

On Monday he rejected the Sunday Times report as "unfair". 

READ: Prasa board dismisses acting CEO after salary scandal

“This statement is unfair and it has affected my family and it seeks to undermine the work I have done. There is nothing that is going to deter me to fight corruption,” he told reporters in Pretoria.

Letsoalo said he would not have accepted his appointment had he been offered R1.7m, the salary he earned as Road Traffic Management Corporation CEO.

"I have 70 000 employees and five CEOs. You want to say I must still get paid that money? If they sent me that letter in the agreement I would have said 'no'. There is no way I was going to do so much work for nothing. What I am entitled to I will get."

READ: I am entitled to R5.9m - acting Prasa CEO

He claimed the report was part of a "media assault" and the first of three articles from an "unholy alliance" aimed at destabilising Prasa and his administration. Processes had to be followed to increase one's salary, he said.

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