Temporary postal workers on strike
ABOUT 400 casual postmen embarked on an industrial action in Gauteng in an attempt to get the South African Post Office to convert them into permanent labourers.
The strike action took place yesterday at Witspos in Ormonde, Johannesburg. Witspos is the country's largest mail centre.
Should the strike continue, the delivery of mail in South Africa will be delayed as Witspos supplies mail and parcels to other provinces.
There was drama outside the mail centre yesterday as workers wielded tree branches and prevented vehicles and workers from entering or exiting the premises.
Sapo workers who came to Witspos to report for an afternoon shift were turned away by the strikers.
Witspos's 16 trucks and passenger vehicles were consequently parked at a filling station about a kilometre away from the centre.
The workers came from different Sapo depots in Johannesburg.
Chairman of the casual workers' committee Thabiso Bopape said the protests resulted from Sapo's reneging on a promise to convert their contracts into permanent ones.
Bopape said that on April 4 the workers and Sapo signed an agreement that resulted in the postmen being directly employed temporarily by Sapo for three months.
He said this was to give Sapo enough time to sort out administrative issues in converting their contracts.
"However, when the three months ended on July 4, Sapo failed to convert the workers' contracts, and the workers have been working without contracts ever since," said Bopape.
He said that at a meeting Sapo management informed them there were 625 permanent postmen positions available, but that the company had not budgeted for the positions.
"It does not make sense for Sapo to say they do not have a budget to hire us permanently when the company afforded to move its headquarters from a building it owned to an office park that cost R425-million," said Bopape.
Sapo spokesman Khulani Qoma denied that the employees were given a three-month contract. "It was a 12-month contract," he said.
He said Sapo would be challenged financially if it were to hire the workers because the company only needed them for the month-end peak periods.
"At the end of the month, mail volumes rise and this requires us to have more postmen on duty. However, in the middle of the month, Sapo needs fewer workers. Hence we can't employ the temporary workers permanently," said Qoma.
He said because Sapo had cut out labour brokers, this meant the workers now received the money that used to go to labour brokers.
"When there are vacancies in Sapo we will give the workers first preference," he said.