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By Dimakatso Modipa

Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) top officials picketed outside the National Treasury headquarters in Tshwane on Friday morning to highlight the plight of workers at both the SABC and the Post Office.

Dressed in their red and black attire, the officials toyi-toyied and sang their hearts out before delivering their memorandum of grievances to Chief Director of the National Treasury Joe Phago.

“The purpose of the picket is to raise issues which have been affecting workers at the Post Office and at the SABC,” said Cosatu’s Secretary General Solly Phetoe.

“We have been engaging the Minister of Telecommunications for some time now regarding imminent retrenchments at the Post Office and failure by the SABC to pay workers salary increases which became due on 1 April 2023,” he said.

Phetoe lamented the fact that about five thousand workers at the Post Office have already been given letters of retrenchment while nine to ten thousand of them have already taken voluntary severance packages.

Cosatu leadership picketing outside National Treasury department in Tshwane
Cosatu leadership picketing outside National Treasury department in Tshwane

“As Cosatu we have always indicated that we are against the retrenchment of workers and have told the government that there are ways which can be implemented to avoid retrenchments, especially as the country is facing economic crisis and finding another job is impossible,” he said.

He pointed out that the appointment of business rescue companies is wrong as they are always appointed without timelines.

“Our call to the Minister of Telecommunications is for him to instruct business rescue companies to withdraw all letters of retrenchment to workers at the Post Office and also pay workers what is due to them in relation to medical aid, pension fund, provident fund and UIF,” he said.

He stressed that the Post Office is in contempt of a 2021 court order that ruled that the Post Office must pay its workers the above-mentioned money.

“We say to the Minister before we discuss the issue of retrenchments the Post Office must first pay workers what is due to them then we shall engage them,” fumed Phetoe.

He revealed that the problem at the SABC is that though the workers there have accepted the 6% pay increase, the employer is reluctant to pay retrospective payments that became due in April 2023.

“The SABC wants these retrospective payments to be effective from October, but we are saying workers must be paid these monies from the day the collective agreement lapsed as it can’t decide on its own as to when the retrospective payments should be effective,” said Phetoe.

Phetoe said even if the SABC might not have money at the moment, the broadcaster must commit itself to a plan outlining how it will eventually pay workers what is due to them.

Phetoe insisted that the Treasury must find money in one way or another to rescue the Post Office as it plays an important role in the society.

“Almost 235 post offices have been shut down and this is wrong as the Post Office is an institution that is supposed to provide service delivery to the elderly and grant recipients,” he said.

“If our demands are not met then we will apply for a protected strike under Section 77 and embark on rolling mass action with all our members,” warned Phetoe.

The workers’ memorandum, which was addressed to the Treasury and also to Minster of Communications and Technologies M. Gungubele, Minister of Labour and Emoyment Thulas Nxesi and Minister of Finance Enoch Godongwana, was read and handed in by Cosatu Gauteng Provincial Secretary Louisa Modikwe.

The memorandum partly reads as follows:

1. The leaders of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) request an urgent meeting with you regarding the horrific plight of workers at the South African Broadcasting Corporation and the South African Post Office (SAPO).

2. For the past three years permanent staff members and freelancers have had no salary increases despite the rapid rise in the cost of living.

3.The situation at SAPO is a national tragedy with staff members being unpaid for months, third party deductions not handed over to the relevant administrators as required by law and also pending mass retrenchments as well as intention to slash the wages of remaining staff members by 40%.

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