Cape Town - The Road Accident Fund (RAF) described as "ludicrous" claims by the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) that is in a "shambles", and said the union's reasons for embarking on strike action on Thursday are "unreasonable and without merit".
Numsa claimed that at least 1 500 of its members were on strike at RAF branches countrywide "because the RAF is in turmoil". However, the RAF informed Fin24 on Friday that of the 800 of its 2 600 permanent employees who are Numsa members, only 150 picketed on Thursday.
If Numsa's claims are true, asked the RAF's CEO Dr Eugene Watson, "how does one then explain the fact that claim processing - which is the RAF's fundamental business - has improved over the years?" He added: "Productivity has risen but unfortunately so has the fund's expenditure, resulting in the utilisation of all available cash.
"This has resulted in the financial challenges that the RAF is currently experiencing - it is this context that Numsa has conveniently chosen not to outline.
"The fund is still continuing on its transformative path which has seen strategies being fulfilled, a reduced backlog of open claims, fraudsters being arrested, and more claimants being assisted daily, resulting in positive audit outcomes and three clean audits."
Numsa said RAF management is blocking the union’s attempt to fight for a living wage, with the lowest paid workers forced to survive on R5 000 after deductions while executives like Watson earn over R5m per annum.
The RAF said it could not accede to the union's demands as its assertions are patently untrue. For instance, it is not true to say that the RAF has not updated the salary scales for three years, as they were in fact updated in 2013, 2014 and 2016.
In addition, workers who earned below the minmium were brought up to the entry level, ensuring that no employee earns below the minimum for each job grade.
"Numsa's demands are rooted in their insistence that the RAF adopt unverified, nebulous proposed salary scales, which the fund cannot accede to. The RAF cannot agree to arbitrarily determined salary scales or demands."
The union has not yet entered into formal bargaining and picketed for the adoption of salary scales which were determined arbitrarily, said the RAF, "essentially demanding a raise, over and above all other benefits employees of the fund enjoy and before conclusion of salary increases for 2017. Therefore, their reasons for going on strike are unreasonable and without merit."
The RAF said a stalemate was reached after it failed to reach an agreement with the union during mediation at the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration on March 4 and 6, and a certificate of non-resolution was then issued by the CCMA.
The principle of "no work, no pay" will apply and no overtime will be granted to striking workers, said the RAF.
The fund said it will continue to engage Numsa through the various mediation processes, and no public engagements will be done regarding the matter until an agreement has been concluded.