‘Black on black’ woes spark Icasa strike

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Icasa workers picketing in Sandton. (Image courtesy of @thabitha on Twitter.)
Icasa workers picketing in Sandton. (Image courtesy of @thabitha on Twitter.)

Johannesburg - Almost 100 staff of the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) went on strike on Monday over a pay and human resource policies dispute.

Over 70 workers picketed outside Icasa’s head office in Sandton while another 27 staff went on strike across South Africa, said organiser of the strike Suzan Mashinini.

The workers want a pay rise of 7% and bonus pay, back-dated to 2014. The workers also want human resource policies, such as a performance management system, scrapped.

These issues have been bubbling since 2014 when workers decided to abandon their memberships with the Communication Workers Union (CWU), Mashinini told Fin24.

At the time, Mashinini said the CWU was meant to help negotiate a planned restructuring at Icasa, but workers felt that the union failed to represent them properly.

Subsequently, the Icasa workers tried joining labour union Solidarity but then decided to rather consult a legal and human resources firm, which took their matter to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA).

The CCMA then gave the Icasa workers the permission to strike as a deal couldn't be reached, said Mashinini.

"They (Icasa management) haven't given us a salary increase for two years, since 2014/15 because they said we are earning a lot, which we do not even know what informed that - where does that come from, there's no precedent, there's nothing, we don't know where that comes from,” Mashinini told Fin24.

"At that particular time, the very same people (Icasa management) who say we are earning a lot, they are driving X5s, X6 - you name all these big SUVs - they're driving them. And it's worse off, it's black on black, they are doing this on their own black brothers and sisters.

"I'm not trying to be racist here; I'm not understanding why would they do that on us. You know when it's your fellow man, you wear that expectation that he will treat you in a better way,” said Mashinini.

The strike will only end when workers' “demands are met”, said Mashinini.

Correction: Fin24 previously incorrectly wrote that 'Palesa Maseka' commented on behalf of Icasa. The spokesperson for Icasa that Fin24 spoke to is Paseka Maleka.

When contacted for comment earlier on Monday, Icasa spokesperson Paseka Maleka said Icasa staff “are not happy with some of the policies because they say they weren’t properly consulted”.

But Maleka said work at Icasa, which regulates the communications and telecommunications industry in South Africa, is ongoing despite the strike.

Icasa still needs to issue its findings on a complaint about the SABC banning footage of protests on its broadcasts. The findings on the matter is expected by Friday, Maleka said.

“Business continues,” Maleka told Fin24.

“There are those staff that are not striking,” he added.

Meanwhile, unity among workers is ‘scarce’ at Icasa, said Mashinini.

"There is no unity at all. They are just intimidating, firing people. I don't know how many people have resigned,” Mashinini told Fin24.

"We are tired as workers,” Mashinini said.

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