Irate workers down tools

Disgruntled mothers were shocked to find gates locked at the Gugulethu Sassa office.

Services were brought to a standstill at various offices of the Department of Social Development and at offices of the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) last week when members of the National Education Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) embarked on a strike following failed negotiations over working conditions.

In Gugulethu, workers went on a rampage on Wednesday March 15, leaving scores of grant beneficiaries and applicants in shock.

As the workers took their battle to the streets, beneficiaries and applicants had to return home without getting the required assistance.

A woman stood at the gate shouting, “Akusetyenzwa kuzo zonke iofisi zethu” (It is a total shutdown in all our offices).

Nehawu provincial spokesman Eric Kweleta said members from all the offices took part in the strike. He said negotiations over service conditions, which started in 2015, had deadlocked.

He said a fruitless meeting with Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini had forced them to strike.

“We took decision to embark on a total shutdown strike after all failed.

“Among others we need an allowance for members in rural areas.

“We have noticed that people want to work in urban areas because the rural areas are paid less.

“But we are saying we want to up(grade) those areas so the payment must be upped.

“We also want the entry level two to five to be scrapped.

“It should start at five to seven across the board,” he said.

Mr Kweleta said the strike would continue indefinitely and he called for Ms Dlamini to step down.

“She has failed. She must step down. What is happening around her affects the clients,” he said, adding that workers were blamed for problems caused by the minister.

Social Development employee Banoyolo Yawa said the illegal deductions from beneficiaries’ bank accounts had been blamed on workers.

A woman who did not want to be named for fear she might not be helped when things return to normal, said she was disappointed at not being being assisted.

She said she came from afar only to get nothing.

“This is not on. I was not aware about the strike, and I guess other people were also not aware. I have come too far to be turned away,” she said.

Sassa has warned its staff not to join Nehawu if it goes on a secondary strike that was due to start yesterday (Wednesday March 22).

In a press statement, Sassa said the strike “is illegal” and “unlawful”, and staff were “strongly advised” not to participate.

Western Cape Sassa spokeswoman Shivani Wahab said: “Sassa employees are hereby strongly advised that participation in the secondary strike is unlawful and they are strongly advised not to participate in it”.

Vukani sent questions to Ms Dlamini’s spokeswoman, Lumka Oliphant, who promised to respond by last Friday but by the time this edition of Vukani went to print she had not done so.