The National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union [NEHAWU] will convene a press conference on Wednesday to communicate the state of readiness and details of the nation-wide strike action at the Department of Water and Sanitation.
The National Education Health & Allied Workers’ Union [NEHAWU] has been mobilising its members in the Department of Water and Sanitation for a strike after securing a certificate on 14th December 2017 as parties failed to resolve the dispute at the Departmental Bargaining Chamber.
The strike is planned to commence tomorrow morning, the 8th March 2018 at 8am in all 53 workplaces across the country. These workplaces consist of offices and dams where our members are located. The union has notified the newly appointed Minister of Water and Sanitation, Mr Gugile Nkwinti on the intention to strike as per the requirement of Labour Relations Act as amended and asked him to meet the leadership of the union in order to be appraised of the issues that resulted into the current dispute. However, it is disappointing that the new Minister has not bothered neither to acknowledge the receipt nor to respond to the contents of letter, despite the negative publicity the department has attracted for wrong reasons.
It is for these reasons that members of the national union will withdraw their labour tomorrow in all workplaces of the department of water and sanitation in the form of picket lines throughout the country. In this regard, the union has deployed its National Office Bearers on the first day of the strike to workplaces as follows:
Midmaar Dam in KZN: President: Cde. Mzwandile Makwayiba
DWS Bellville Office in WC: 1st Deputy President: Cde. Mike Shingange
Potchefstroom in NW: National Treasurer: Cde. Kgomotso Makhupola
DWS Head Office in GP: General Secretary Cde. Zola Saphetha
DWS Standerton in MP: Deputy General Secretary: Cde. December Mavuso
All Provincial and Regional Office Bearers of the national union will also be deployed in workplaces throughout provinces until the department concedes to our demands.
At this stage, the union is satisfied with the level of mobilisation and confirms its readiness for the national strike in all provinces. This is the first national strike in this department post the 1994 democratic breakthrough and members have vowed to come out in numbers to highlight their discomfort with how the management has been treating them.
This national strike comes as a result of the collapsed negotiations on matters of mutual interest in the Water and Sanitation Departmental Bargaining Chamber at the General Public Sector Sectoral Bargaining Council (GPSSBC) where the employer demonstrated a high level of arrogance and dismally failed to respond to the demands tabled by the union in the past 12 months. Things got worse when the then Minister Nomvula Mokonyane unilaterally decided to outsource many services in the department, unlawfully suspend many senior managers, refuse to implement arbitration awards which are favourable the union, propose a single catchment management agency without consultation and refuse to pay construction employees their merit bonuses in December 2017.
The department continued to negotiate in bad faith with the union hence the union is left with no other option but to go on strike. The strike will continue until the department has meaningfully engaged the union and resolved the issues in dispute.
Central to our demands are the following:
• Full payment of merit bonuses and promotions retrospectively from 2017. Our members at Construction Directorate were not paid their merit bonuses and promotions for 2017. This was despite the fact that we engaged the employer in August 2017 requesting to be advised as to when they were going to be paid. The employer only paid 32% and withheld the 68 % without explanation despite the fact that this was budget for.
Our demand is that the department must pay the 68% that is outstanding and commit going forward that merit bonuses will be paid by no later than 1st December yearly.
• Failure to Sign off new conditions of employment for construction employees which were finalized two years ago. In terms of the Water Act of 1998, the conditions of employment for construction directorate or employees employed under the Act are to be reviewed from time to time and the Department deliberately refused to comply with law for the past ten (10) years.
• Failure to ensure that the contracts of project based workers are linked to the life span of the projects. The department through construction directorate has projects of building dams and pipe lines of flows of water from dams to rivers or the other way around. These projects based on budget have time frames of three (3) to five (5) years. For example when workers are contracted in these projects, their contracts are not in line with the lifespan of the projects. In many instances, they are given 1 year contracts which are reviewed after a year whilst some contracts are not reviewed because of the relationship between managers or supervisors and employees.
Our demand is that the contract of employment of employees in these projects should be in line with the lifespan of the project. If projects are for three (3) years, then contracts must be for three (3) years with benefits.
• Failure to create a conducive working environment and provide better working conditions in the form of clean offices and tools of trade. Many of our members are working in appalling conditions, offices with falling ceilings, no working air conditions, small offices occupied by more than three (3) employees, no working toilets, no protective clothing, dilapidated houses for those working next to the dams and in some instances lack of working tools.
Our demand is that the department must address these challenges over the period of six (6) months and comply with Occupational Health and Safety Act.
• The department must stop the outsourcing of projects for building of dams which renders the departmental construction directorate redundant and which potentially can lead to job loses. Over the years after the deployment of Minister Nomvula Mokonyane, we have witnessed outsourcing of many services in the department. Cleaners at Head Office are outsourced and the construction of dams and pipelines where major projects are outsourced to private companies despite the fact that the department had capacity to run with these projects.
In Moutse pipeline project, the private contractor was given a portion of the work but paid full amount without completing the work as a result the in-house construction team was employed to finish this work. This means that DWS lost more money for the completion of the work while the private contractor made profit and left scot-free with no consequences for the unfinished work.
At Nandoni water distribution the pipeline was awarded to several private contractors and the in-house contractor. The work done by private contractors had to be re-done while the work done by construction passed the test. As it stands, the in-house contractor has to redo the incomplete work to be done by the private contractors by exhuming the laid pipes. The private contractors have been paid in full with no punishment. The faulty section of the pipeline is at the beginning of the 80km pipeline that must connect water from Nandoni dam. This section is critical to be repaired because the whole pipeline would be useless leading to fruitless expenditure if this section is not repaired.
Our demand is that all outsourced projects and services be insourced with immediate effect.
• Address the safety challenges of water control aides/officers. We have noted with great concerns that water control aides/officers who are operating dam’s gates are made to travel by foot when they operate these gates and sometimes they are expected to do the work very late at night. This is very unsafe and this situation cannot be accepted.
Our demand is that the department must provide transport for these employees as a matter of urgency.
• We have also noted that there are employees at salary level 1 to 4 who are made to perform the work of employees at salary level 5 to 7 without compensation or being given acting allowance.
Our demand is that the department must look into the list of all these employees and remunerate them correctly retrospectively. In an event the employees have been doing the work for more than 12 months, the employees must be employed to these levels.
• Implementation of arbitration award on cleaners, drivers and groundsmans. The union and the department has had disputes that were arbitrated and in some instances the department got the awards in their favour and in other instances they awards favoured the union. One award is the one that translated cleaners and groundsmans to salary level 4. This was implemented at Head Office but not in provinces, Mpumalanga complained and was implemented in that province after one employee was taken out of the list. When the union demanded clarification the department ran to the State Attorney Office and decided to review the award. Which meant that the reviewal is not factual but rather a way to spite the union. Our demand is that the department must stop wasting resources and time instead it must implement all arbitration awards which are not reviewed within the stipulated period as per the Act.
• The department must stop the unilateral process of establishing the Single Catchment Management Agency and consult with labour. In 2015 the department advised the union that it was considering establishing a Single Catchment Management. This CMA is meant to act as a middle men between the rendering of services by the department and municipalities at a cost. We agreed then that the parties must have a task team to look into the proposal and advise the Minister. The Director General then decided to remove unions from the task team and in 2017 the Minister tabled proposal to Parliament to establish a Single CMA. It is the principle matter of the union that we reject any form of PPP or agentisation of services in the public service.
Our demand is that the department must reverse the proposal tabled at Parliament and revert back to the task team formed by the Minister in 2015 for purposes of looking into viable ways of reaching the mandate of the department without agentification.
• Irregular appointments must be stopped and the department must account for the money spent to the Manager located in Mbombela who was booked in a hotel for more than 12 months replacing a manager transferred to Pretoria from the same office.
The union has noted with concerns the irregular appointments and bizarre decisions to suspend senior management for frivolous decisions. In Mpumalanga the provincial manager was re-deployed to Head Office and someone was taken from Head Office to go and work in Mpumalanga as a manager of the province and booked into a hotel for more than 12 months. In North West a manager has been deployed from Free State to work in North West. All these decisions were taken by the Minister. DDG: Construction was suspended for something not in her directorate, CFO is languishing at Head Office without work because the Acting DG is still responsible for CFO work.
Our demand is that all these decisions must be reversed and corrected urgently. In this regard, the department must commit to act to those taken such decisions and also must account on how much money spent in Mpumalanga for hotel fees.
NEHAWU members and workers in general have become impatient with this intransigent employer, who expect quality service, while turning a blind eye on genuine issues of workers as they are located at the point of service. These issues date back to 2016 since then the department has continuously refused to give what is due to them. These issues cannot be deferred any longer. We are shocked that even with a threat of a runaway listeria epidemic, government is prepared to worsen the burden of water scarcity on our people by completely refusing to give in to reasonable workers’ demands.
Corruption, exploitation and abuse
The department has been hogging the headlines due to the corruption taking place and recently it emerged that it has overspent its budget by more than R2 billion and has asked for an overdraft from National Treasury. Our view is that pouring more money into the department will not assist as it will somehow find its way into the pockets of the greedy. In this regard, the national union wish to confirm that it has more information on maladministration, high levels of exploitation and abuse in the department. We will be making a request to Scopa to make a presentation focusing on our members who have either been suspended or charged for refusing to implement decisions imposed to them on appointing certain companies to benefit from undue tender processes of the department.
Under the leadership of Minister Mokonyane, there have been haphazard and unilateral suspensions of senior managers for questioning decisions of the Minister but also for doing irregular activities after being instructed by the Minister. Some of our members and workers have been charged and suspended for the following:
• For performing a task that was not her responsibility which was for the Lephalale Water board and LTE company and these institutions are very close to the Minister. The LTE is the one that has been receiving tenders since the arrival of Minister Nomvula.
• For refusing to do irregular practices and take unlawful instruction.
• for unlawfully extending or back dating the license of a company with close links to the Minister
• For refusing to do wrong payments
• For not doing irregular transactions
The national union hopes that the fact that Minister Mokonyane has been shunted to the Department of Communication will not absolve her of any wrongdoing that she might have done while in charge of the department of water and sanitation. At this point the union is consulting with its lawyers for a possibility of taking a legal route for some act of corruption and maladministration and considering to take some of evidence to security agencies such as Hawks and even to Public Protector. This is a battle worth to fight and the union shall not back down as it is willing to sleep with the hyena or to hold the bull by its horns until proper and appropriate action is taken against those implicated in this mess the department find itself in.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org Visit NEHAWU website: www.nehawu.org.za