Block 'sleepy' Gordhan's salary if Denel salaries go unpaid, says Numsa's Jim

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General secretary of Numsa, Irvin Jim.
General secretary of Numsa, Irvin Jim.
Jabu Kumalo

  • National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa secretary general Irvin Jim accused Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan of "sleeping on duty".
  • Jim said if the state-owned arms manufacturer cannot pay salaries on time, the minister does not deserve to have a salary either.
  • Jim said government and Parliament had a responsibility to support Denel for the sake of workers' livelihoods.

National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) secretary general Irvin Jim accused Minister of Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan of "sleeping on duty" when it came to Denel's ongoing difficulty with securing the salaries of employees, and said if the state-owned arms manufacturer cannot pay salaries on time, the minister does not deserve to have a salary either.

Jim was briefing reporters on Tuesday afternoon regarding matters affecting the union and its members.

He slammed the ongoing financial challenges at Denel, which have in recent years frequently left the utility struggling to pay employees their salaries on time.

There was uncertainty over salary payments at Denel as recently as July this year, which saw trade union Solidarity calling for urgent government intervention and threatening legal action against the arms manufacturer if it did not pay up. 

Numsa filed an application at the Constitutional Court earlier this year to determine whether Parliament should decide if state-owned enterprises can be allowed to go insolvent. While there are some 700 state-owned companies in SA, its application rested heavily on troubles at Denel, which employs just over 2 800 people. 

The union argued in its application that Parliament's oversight obligations are explicitly set out in the Constitution.

Jim told reporters on Tuesday that Numsa had sought to "challenge the coordinated collapse of Denel by the Department of Public Enterprises at the expense of workers' job security and their wages".

"Numsa calls on all Parliamentarians to play their oversight role and they must be firm that ... Gordhan should not be paid his salary whilst workers of Denel are not receiving their earned wages and salaries," said Jim.

Jim said the union had grown "tired" of Gordhan, slamming him as undynamic and "sleeping on duty" while state-owned entities in the care of his portfolio crumbled.

When Gordhan tabled his budget vote in Parliament in May, Department of Public Enterprises director-general Kgathatso Tlhakudi said Denel has developed a new plan for restructuring and to deal with financial challenges.

"There will be a need to help Denel with regards to its finances. We are looking to leverage our strategy to secure finance for Denel and are having national discussions to look at how Denel can be assisted in the interim phase," said Tlhakudi.

Regarding financial challenges and paying salaries on time at Denel, the arms producer's chair Gloria Serobe said the minister asked the board to be closer to operations and that executive were spending a lot of time with labour dealing with issues of operations including salary payments.

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