The Public Servants Association (PSA) says it will shut down South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) offices on Monday, after Minister of Social Development Susan Shabangu failed to consider the union’s demands.
The union — which represents more than half the workers employed at the registration centres and pay points — has been engaged in prolonged and conflict-ridden wage negotiations.
The PSA and the agency have not been able to reach an agreement on wage increases for workers since the union tabled its demands in February.
The demand included a single-term agreement with a general sliding-scale salary increase of between 13% and 15%. Issues related to housing, leave, the post establishment, danger allowances, performance management and the insourcing of certain services, were also included in the union’s demand.
The PSA says Sassa failed to table any offer in response after it decided not to participate in talks because it considers the group a branch of the public service co-ordinating bargaining council, which determines wages for all public servants.
The remuneration of Sassa employees is governed by the Sassa Act, which gives the minister the prerogative to decide on increases. These fall outside the ambit of the bargaining council.
After a meeting with Shabangu amid strike action on June 11, the PSA said in a statement that it “made it clear” to the minister that the Sassa bargaining forum is the only recognised structure for negotiating matters of mutual interest for workers.
“The PSA is adamant that Sassa is not bound by any bargaining process under the auspices of the public service co-ordinating bargaining council,” said PSA general manager Ivan Fredericks.
Following the meeting, the union resolved to “temporarily relax” strike action, which took place on days when there were no pay outs, but severely affected the registration of new welfare recipients.
On June 21, the PSA intensified strike action, as it handed over a memorandum to Shabangu.
“The PSA attempted on several occasions to have an audience with the minister of social development to, amongst other, address Sassa failure to conclude on wage negotiations. The PSA also repeatedly warned Sassa that its conduct and attitude will impact negatively on service delivery and labour peace,” said Fredericks.
Following the minister’s failure to respond to the union’s, the PSA has resolved to adjust its strategy and embark on far more disruptive strike action.
PSA deputy general manager Tahir Maepa told the Mail & Guardian that despite the union’s efforts to minimise the impact on the public, Sassa has “blatantly refused to have a logical discussion with the union”.
As such, Maepa said, the shut down will “cripple” the agency’s capacity to conduct payouts.
Maepa added that the union has seen Sassa’s application to interdict the strike, but said the PSA is confident the shutdown will go ahead as planned.