The National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (NEHAWU) has understood the mandate of the South African Revenue Services (SARS) from its inception which amongst others include that SARS must also inspire to contribute to the building of fiscal citizenship reflected by a law abiding society which its employees constitute an integral part of the same society referred to. We further understood that employees of SARS are located at the point of production to ensure such mandate is realised but a key question to be asked from SARS management, government is how such a mandated will be realised when the same employees’ contributions are not valued and not regarded as critical in ensuring optimal compliance with Tax, Customs and Excise legislation.
NEHAWU has been instrumental in registering the hard won gains for ordinary worker within the institution (SARS). Indeed, our struggles and efforts have led to a more progressive transformation programme at South African Revenue Services (SARS) in line with Employment Equity Plan, Development and Appointment of Women to Strategic positions and dismantling the bulling culture from South African Revenue Services (SARS) management. We further fought for better Salaries and Grade Anomalies that have been in existence for past decades. These gains created healthy, friendly and stable working environment for the employees for some years.
We now observe and experience the reversal of these hard won gains in the recent past months. The National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (NEHAWU) shall do everything in its power to protect all the registered gains hence we commissioned a diagnostic exercise on the current status and/or the mood of the employees at South African Revenue Services (SARS) and the following are findings:
• Employee’s moral is at its lowest and this is during the critical time for South African Revenue Services (SARS).
• Employees benefits are constantly been withdrawn in order to circumvent the uninformed financial decision of South African Revenue Services (SARS).
• There’s consistent attempt on undermining the Employment Equity in order to justify the current increase on the already bloated management structure and or figures.
• Failure of management to address the issue of capacity where it’s critically needed in order for SARS to realise its TARGET and fully perform its core mandate.
• Implementation of the constant failing Strategy of Debt Management.
• Outsourcing of functions that employees in South African Revenue Services (SARS) can and are performing.
• Lack of decisive leadership at the helm of South African Revenue Services (SARS).
• Reintroduction of processes to increase Salary and Grade Anomalies.
• Orchestrated dismissals of employees by the failure of South African Revenue Services (SARS) to address the loopholes on the systems at border posts.
• None existence of Skills Development Plan.
• Failure to implement the Due Diligence Report has been at a larger scale the reason why the conditions of service are compromised in the Revenue Services and that is a ticking time bomb as employees are pushed beyond measure.
Based on the above findings and also the current dispute, the national union consulted with its members across the nation which resulted into a national bargaining forum meeting held yesterday on the 26th March 2019. Out of this national forum meeting, the union emerged resolute and confidence on its readiness to roll out its sleeves to ensure that the interests of its members are protected and the demands are adhered to.
Negotiations at SARS for the 2019/20 financial year started in November 2018 where our demands were tabled as a requirement and continued to engage the employer for a period of 5 months without any positive outcome. This is because from the word go SARS never showed any interest in finding common ground and that was evident when in January 2019 they were still offering our members a below inflation rate offer. In the middle of negotiations in December 2018, SARS issued a memo to employees withdrawing some benefits they used to enjoying for many years. Adding to the insult, instead of responding to workers’ demands SARS tabled a proposal to completely overhaul the leave dispensation within the organisation. To us, this is a clear indication that we are dealing with an employer who is hell-bent on negotiating in bad faith.
This process continued until we had to agree as parties in the bargaining forum that we were not finding each other and that we needed a third party in the form of CCMA to intervene. At that point some of our demands were as following:
• Single term agreement.
• Double digit salary increment.
• Long service benefit.
• New dispensation on family responsibility leave in the form of a 3 year circle instead of the current 1 year circle.
• Granting of Pre-Natal leave.
On the 8th March 2019 during the CCMA mediation a settlement proposal was put on the table by the CCMA Mediator for parties to consider and revert back on the 13th March with mandates. Again it was the union that revised its position without SARS putting any revised offer on the table based on the CCMA proposal. It is at that point that the certificate of non-resolution giving way to the strike was issued. Subsequently, we issued a notice to strike to the employer on the 20th March 2019. Since the notice of strike was issued, three meetings were held with the employer on the 25th and twice on the 26th March 2019 to try and find common ground and avert the strike. Our major gripe with these meetings is the way SARS kept on shifting the goal posts during the discussions. At some point they agreed on the single term agreement and hours later they hanged to a three year term agreement. In the last meeting convened late on 26th March 2019 it became clear that the strike action was inevitable hence as NEHAWU we are ready to commence with the strike tomorrow morning.
As NEHAWU, we are happy with the level of readiness for the strike and we are confident that tomorrow the March 28, 2019 all our members will be at the picket lines as a last resort to force the employer to accede to our demands. This is a protected strike action that will have picket actions in the offices of SARS.
If the employer is to avert the strike action, then the following demands must be met:
• We are demanding a single term.
• Salary Increment of 11,4%.
• SARS must compensate employees for recognised improved qualifications in the form of 1% increase as well as 10% bonus.
• Long Service Awards.
• Performance Bonus policy must be reviewed and finalised.
• Family Responsibility Leave (FRL) we demand the introduction of a 3 year cycle.
• Pre-natal and Vaccination leave 8 working days / 16 half-days for vaccinations and pre-natal check-ups.
• Lastly SARS must reverse the withdrawal of the benefits that the employer withdrew during the negotiations in December 2018 and those benefits must all be reinstated.
The withdrawn benefits are the following:
• Ending the Graduate & Trainee Program
• End the Leave encashment (6 days)
• Implementation of the agreed Employment Equity Plan.
• SAICA Program
• Termination of Travel Allowance
The national union shall not settle for anything less and shall wage a relentless war on behalf of its members until all our demands are fully met by SARS. It cannot be that its workers on the ground must suffer when they demand decent wages and Senior Management continue enjoying benefits that they currently have.
Members have been mobilised throughout the country to ensure that by the 28th March 2019 SARS offices are experiencing a total shut down. The union is happy with the level of mobilisation hence we are asking the public to join us in this genuine and reasonable fight directed to SARS management if the status quo is not changing.
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