As if Parliament’s management does not have enough to worry about in the build up to Thursday’s state of the nation address, now Parliament employees are creating a new headache with a threat to withdraw their services from the event.
A few hundred Parliament employees protested inside the parliamentary precinct around lunch time today, using the event as leverage to score the 13th cheque.
The majority  of Parliament’s 1345 staff members are members of the National Education Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu).
Nehawu branch chairperson in Parliament, Sthembiso Tembe, said Parliament staff met at noon today and it was in this meeting that they resolved to withdraw their services from the Sona preparations.
Tembe said Parliament employees had met with Parliament’s senior managers last Thursday to present their demands and the managers had promised to get back to them yesterday.
“They haven’t,” said Tembe, during the protest.
“If they don’t meet our demands today or tomorrow, we are not going to participate in the state of the nation address,” he added.
“We will then continue to demonstrate during lunch time to put pressure on the management of Parliament to come back to the negotiating table.”
At issue are the demands by staff for improved conditions of service. But the main issue is the demand for the 13th cheque or annual bonus.
This is an old demand which has led to similar protests just before the June 2014 state of the nation address.
“We co-operated with them last year, and ended up participating in the preparations for that Sona, but we won’t this time around,” said a staff member, who did not want to be named for fear of victimisation.
“Let’s see who will roll that red carpet for the president this time around,” said the employee, as her colleagues who had gathered around her cheered.
Tembe said they have resolved that all Nehawu members should not participate in the preparations for Sona and in the event itself on Thursday, starting from those involved in the actual organisation of Sona to those who serve in the protection services in Parliament.
Tembe claimed that there has been no development in the matter since their meeting with Parliament’s presiding officers last year.
Parliament had not responded to a request for comment at the time of publishing.