Post Office vows to consult as 40% of jobs at stake in retrenchments plans

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  • Unions say the SA Post Office has announced internally that it plans to begin consultations on section 189 retrenchments.
  • According to Treasury estimates, as many as 6 000 jobs could be cut in the next two years.
  • The SA Post Office said it would not implement any steps affecting its workforce without following a proper consultation process with all parties.
  • For more financial news, go to the News24 Business front page.

SA Post Office (SAPO) workers have been informed that the struggling entity will start with large-scale retrenchments, unions say.

Earlier this year, Treasury projected that the number of SAPO employees would shrink from 16 275 in 2021/22 to a projected 10 254 in 2024/25.

This means that 40% of positions may be cut.

SAPO faces severe financial challenges, and has been struggling to pay staff medical aid contributions and debts. It suffered a R2.3 billion loss in 2020/2021, with its revenue rapidly declining.

According to Communication Workers Union (CWU) general secretary Aubrey Tshabalala, SAPO said it would start consulting unions on section 189 retrenchments this week.

"In the previous week, the same management approached us with a proposal of cutting salaries by 50% and reducing working days to four days a week. CWU rejects this move by management noting that SAPO failed to process voluntarily severance package[s] because it had no money to pay," said Tshabalala.

READ | Post Office in severe distress, may not be 'going concern', says AG

The CWU claims that SAPO failed to implement its voluntary severance package process in terms of section 189 of the Labour Relations Act because it could not afford to pay the severance packages.

Section 189 of the Labour Relations Act allows an employer considering large-scale dismissals to undergo a consultative process to determine whether such dismissals are deemed necessary to keep its operations going.

READ | Despite 'green shoots here and there', Post Office needs cash after revenue nearly halves

An internal CWU notice, which News24 has seen, said the union's leaders met to assess its readiness of a "fight back campaign" and study the response of the ballot voting for a possible strike. This strike will include demonstrations at Parliament, the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies in Pretoria, and SAPO regional offices. 

Cosatu, the umbrella federation of the CWU, called on the government to intervene in the plans to cut 6 000 jobs.

"We call on the government to intervene to halt the planned retrenchments at SAPO with immediate effect. The role of SAPO needs to be reconsidered and with its infrastructure, it can be used to provide more that the services that it currently delivers," the statement said.

SAPO spokesperson Johan Kruger said: "The SA Post Office will not implement any steps affecting its workforce without following a proper consultation process with all parties, including labour unions, employees and government. Consultations in this regard are underway."

The statement called on the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies to work with SAPO and the Postbank to develop a coherent turnaround plan to save jobs and wages and stabilise SAPO. 

Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana did not give SAPO any additional allocation in his medium-term budget. In February, Treasury predicted that staff compensation would fall from R4 billion in 2021/22 to R2.7 billion as its labour force shrank by 6 000 jobs.

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