Nehawu calls truce at Parliament

Nehawu logo
Nehawu logo

Cape Town - Parliament's disgruntled Nehawu workers have called a truce with management by going back to work on Thursday.

The two parties will meet again next Tuesday with the hope that issues left over from last year's protracted strike can still be resolved.

"We still feel we can engage the management," said Eric Kweleta, provincial secretary of the National Education Health and Allied Workers Union.

"The workers decided to go back to work. There is currently no problem."

Many Nehawu-affiliated employees downed tools on Wednesday over the precautionary suspension of its branch chairperson Sthembiso Tembe and another member, Michael Sithole, on Tuesday.

Three other union members face internal charges of insubordination or gross misconduct.

Docked pay

This was after two meetings last week to try and resolve issues left over from last year's protracted strike went awry.

Parliament is officially on recess with MPs out in their constituencies campaigning for the August 3 election. But it is business as usual for almost 1 400 staff such as researchers, committee assistants, translators, and security officials. Around 1 000 of them are Nehawu members; no other union is known to be active at Parliament.

Last Tuesday a meeting was scheduled between the union and Parliament's secretary Gengezi Mgidlana to discuss workers' unhappiness over some of them having their pay docked for taking part in last year's strike, and complaints that performance bonuses had not been paid to some as promised.

Kweleta said management left after union members tried to raise frustrations that were apparently not on the agenda.

"He [Mgidlana] did not have a willingness to listen, and did not want to accommodate them."

A second attempt at a meeting last Thursday ended with Nehawu leadership walking out.

Parliament said in a statement that it had not received any notice of Wednesday's strike, so in its view, the strike was illegal.

It added that Parliament is, by law, regarded as an essential service. 

Deductions not yet reversed

"The suspension of the officials does not suggest that they are guilty of the charges against them. They remain employees of Parliament and continue to receive their usual remuneration pending the outcome of internal disciplinary processes," Parliament said.

But, said Kweleta, "For now we feel that everything that happens in Parliament is a crisis."

He added that workers were upset that more than halfway into the year, agreements from last December had still not been implemented for all.

The provincial leadership spoke to branch representatives at a meeting on Wednesday, and believes it was still possible to talk to management, said Kweleta.

Last year's strike was mainly because of a dispute over how performance bonuses would be calculated. As a result of the strike and the lockouts, Parliament instituted a "no work no pay" policy.

Employees were unhappy about this too, saying that at times they were locked out and could not have gone to their desks even if they wanted to. They had argued that it was a last resort and said that the performance bonus issues had already been resolved and could not understand why they were not being paid out. They have said that many of the promised reversals of deductions over the strike have not been implemented.

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