The National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union [NEHAWU] met with the management of the South African Social Security Agency [SASSA] led by its Acting CEO on Tuesday, the 25th September 2018 as part of the continued effort to resolve the challenges brought about by the migration of the Social Grant Payment System from CPS to SAPO. Among the issues discussed include but not limited to: the introduction of Biometric Enrolment of beneficiaries and staff, Grant Business process and SOCPEN fraud.
This meeting took place as a result of our notice intending to embark on a strike action due to the failure of SASSA to act in good faith regarding decisions of previous engagements. As NEHAWU, we thought that the Tuesday’s meeting as requested by SASSA was as a step in the right direction to resolve outstanding issues in order to avert the imminent strike. To our dismay, we learnt that SASSA had no intention or commitment to find amicable solutions to issues which adversely affect our members and workers in general. Due to the high level of arrogance displayed by SASSA management, the meeting reached a deadlock which resulted into NEHAWU delegation as led by the Secretariat [General Secretary and Deputy General Secretary] staging a walkout from the meeting.
What infuriates the union even more is the fact that in Gauteng our members and workers have been told to bypass the biometric enrolment system as instructed by the Acting CEO who has been in denial on the faults of the biometric system which has resulted into non-payment of beneficiaries and fraudulent activities. Disturbingly so, his instruction (ACEO) threatens our members and ordinary workers that failure to comply will result into punitive measures yet he does not see anything wrong about biometric system hence our members were subjected to disciplinary processes which later were completely withdrawn through the pressure put by the union. The union finds this contradictory and disingenuous of the Acting CEO to instruct workers to bypass the system yet in our discussions held on the 16th August 2018 he rejected the proposal from the union to put on hold the Biometric enrolment pending the process to deal with technical glitches and challenges that came with the system.
SASSA management under the stewardship of the CEOs and Acting CEOs including the current one has over and over again proven beyond reasonable doubt that they are highly stubborn and arrogant. Indeed, this attitude of denialism and conscious neglect is extremely worrying because these are people responsible for managing an agency with a sole task to administer grant for about 17 million beneficiaries made up of pensioners, people with disabilities, children and the most vulnerable people of South African society. The actions of this management convinces us more than ever before that they do not care about beneficiaries who squarely rely on SASSA grants for living as SASSA continues to claim. The SASSA management is obviously not ashamed of the continued total disregard to processes which seeks to ensure stability and an anxiety free environment through undermining the Labour Relations Act as amended which proves that they do not value their most prized assets which is human resource located at the point of service.
In addition to the problems affecting both workers and beneficiaries regarding biometric enrolment, the union wanted to ensure that the process of job evaluation is undertaken to include grants administration and biometric enrolment into KPA’s in order to mainstream the function to employees to work smoothly without interruption to the service. The refusal to undertake job evaluation process unfortunately leaves us with no option but to intensify our mobilisation programme towards a full blown strike at SASSA as set to commence on the 10th October 2018.
The union is further concerned about challenges facing grant beneficiaries which SASSA must still address because of the previous relationship with CPS whereby it subjected beneficiaries through its subsidiary company, Net1, to illegal deductions related to loans through the Grindrod Card.
If the biometric system is not suspended with immediate effect and the technical problems with the system are not resolved the non-payment of beneficiaries will continue unabated. It is a proven fact that NEHAWU as a progressive trade union holds the working class and poor at the centre of its heart and work, hence it is always more than prepared to wage a relentless war against those who do not care at all about social grant beneficiaries while they continue to draw lump sum (huge salaries) at the end of the month.
Indeed, this working class and giant trade union of public servants has declared a serious war with SASSA management and currently gloves are off hence it calls SASSA management to brace themselves for a real fight. In this regard, the union is prepared to hold a bull by its horns and even to sleep with the hyena in defence of its members, grant beneficiaries and working class hence it decided to consider on the following line of actions:
• To organise a Secretariat meeting of the left axis (COSATU and SACP in particular) to appraise them on this threat to the living of grant beneficiaries and working class in general including the working conditions of our members and workers in general.
• To organise an urgent meeting with our sister union, Communications Workers’ Union which is organising in SOPA on the threat to grant beneficiaries which must affect their members too.
• The legal team of the union is busy preparing for an interdict against the biometric system.
• The national war room of the union has been convened to develop a nation-wide mobilization programme starting on the 27th September 2018 to prepare members and workers for a real fight against this management. As adopted by the war room meeting, the national union will embark on a full-blown strike until all the demands are met.
• On the 5th October 2018, the union will convene its national SASSA bargaining forum to consolidate the form and content of its national programme of action which will be outlined by the Secretariat on the same day through a press conference to inform the public about national action.
• On the 8th and 9th October 2018, our members will be picketing in all centres as a warning shot and as a build-up programme toward the full blown strike to commence as from the 10th October 2018.
Indeed, the national union will do everything in its power to fight until the bitter end on behalf the 17 million beneficiaries, our members and workers in general.
On the attacks by the DA
As NEHAWU, we are not surprised by the opportunistic attacks directed at the SASSA workforce by the Democratic Alliance [DA]. The DA claims that our strike will result into non-payment of beneficiaries and disruption of the functions of SASSA. If the DA was familiar with the plight of beneficiaries then they would have not made such nonsensical, ill-informed and ridiculous utterances. The SASSA matter has long been a teething issue yet the populist DA said nothing because they were preoccupied with their internal squabbles and did not have anything to pick up for their election programme.
It is public knowledge that there has been many cases of non-payment of social grant to beneficiaries and that SASSA has not been managing the transition from Cash Paymaster Services [CPS] to the South African Post Office [SAPO] very well and DA lacks appreciation that at the centre of the non-payment is the nagging issue of biometric enrolment of beneficiaries. An issue we have continuously raised as the cause of non-payment of social grant and enrolment of new beneficiaries.
NEHAWU has a long history of fighting side by side with the working class and the poor. Our history of waging wars against exploitation, low wages and horrible working conditions dates back to 1987 when the DA was still a white’s only party which sought to protect white supremacy. The DA has never been known to care about the downtrodden and disenfranchised section of our citizenry. As NEHAWU, we vehemently reject the use of the SASSA matter for cheap politicking and electioneering.
Issued by NEHAWU Secretariat
Zola Saphetha (General Secretary) at 082 558 5968;
December Mavuso (Deputy General Secretary) at 082 558 5969;
Khaya Xaba (NEHAWU Media Liaison Officer) at 082 455 2500 or
email: email@example.com Visit NEHAWU website: www.nehawu.org.za