Denel workers shortchanged

A mechanic works on an Oryx helicopter engine in a workshop hangar on the Denel Aviation site in Boksburg.
A mechanic works on an Oryx helicopter engine in a workshop hangar on the Denel Aviation site in Boksburg.

Thousands of workers at municipalities and a state-owned entity are facing gloomy days ahead after their salaries were either not paid or partially honoured.

Yesterday, employees at the financially embattled state-owned arms manufacturer Denel were told they would only receive 85% of their June salaries.

This is according to the SA Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu), which represents dozens of affected employees at Denel.

Satawu spokesperson Zanele Sabela told Sowetan yesterday that even though there were meetings between employees and management they were all surprised by this month's "short payments".

"Moreover, management only advised workers [about the nonpayment of full salaries] after hours [on Monday] and did not bother to inform the union," Sabela said.

However, public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan announced in parliament yesterday that a lender has come to the assistance of Denel and full salaries will now be paid.

"There is no clearer example of the damaging effects of state capture than the financial strain and uncertainty the 3,500 Denel employees and their families may face each month if the company's liquidity problems continue," Gordhan said. "Denel, our producer of military and aerospace equipment, is a crucial and strategic state entity that was substantially harmed by state capture."

Denel's failure to pay salaries came as several municipalities also said they were struggling to meet their monthly obligations including paying wages.

The troubled Amahlathi municipality, in the Amatole district of the Eastern Cape, said all its 250 workers, 30 councillors and six traditional leaders were not paid their salaries last month. In Welkom, the Matjhabeni local municipality has also struggled to pay salaries on time.

The SA Municipal Workers Union (Samwu) said there were about 30 municipalities who were not paying salaries on time.

"This is unacceptable that a sphere of government does this, some of these municipalities are also not paying third parties such as medical aid, provident and pension funds," said Samwu general secretary Koena Ramatlou.

The SA Federation of Trade Unions general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi said SA had reached "the rock bottom" as "workers were being asked to pay for a crisis they didn't create."

Vavi said SA was in a crisis that would see thousands of jobs being lost. "It's not only at Denel [where there are problems]. Eskom is being unbundled; we will see job losses there including at the other state-owned entities including the SABC," Vavi said.

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