JOHANNESBURG – The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) on Wednesday said it will intensify the strike at the Road Accident Fund (RAF) following failed mediation with the employer.
RAF workers, who are members of Numsa, are demanding better wages and they are also calling for an end to the financial woes bedevilling the organisation.
Numsa said earlier this year the RAF bank account was attached by the sheriff of the court, because of an R8.2-billion debt. For months RAF was unable to fulfil its mandate of compensating accident victims.
Numsa and the RAF this week sought mediation to resolve the issues that led to the strike. However, the union on Wednesday said the talks had collapsed.
“For the last two days RAF and Numsa have been engaged in mediation but it has failed to resolve the impasse between both parties,” said the union in a statement issued by Phakamile Hlubi, the acting national spokesperson.
“RAF wasted taxpayer money by pretending to mediate … It is clear to us as Numsa that this mediation process was nothing more than an expensive exercise by RAF to create the illusion of negotiation, when in fact it has no interest in resolving the crisis”.
Apart from demanding wage hikes, workers concerns include RAF’s suspension of the Bargaining council, which is a forum for workers to raise critical issues affecting them.
“By suspending the bargaining council they have effectively silenced any critical voices which can force them to be accountable. This is an infringement on our constitutional right to organise,” said Numsa.
“RAF management does not want to be accountable to workers, and they clearly do not want to be accountable to the public. NUMSA is demanding that the bargaining council be immediately reinstated.
Numsa is demanding the adjustment of the of salary scales in the workplace.
“At least 60 percent of workers from the RAF are still on entry level salaries, in terms of the salary scales and their salaries have not been adjusted in the last five years, whilst senior managers have had their incomes adjusted and increased at the expense of the majority.”
This situation with the salary scales has also created “unequal pay for equal work’, where some workers are earning less for doing the same work as their colleagues on the same level. This is blatantly unfair and it must be corrected immediately”.
Numsa said there was a high staff turnover at RAF, because of the shambolic state of the organisation. “Those workers’ who remain there are forced to carry the workload of three or more people at a time,” said the union.
“Workers are not donkeys, they are human beings. They cannot carry the burden of such a heavy workload and also be expected to be effective at their jobs at the same time. Our workers are demanding that vacant positions must be filled as this has a material impact on RAF’s core function, which is to pay out claims for road accidents.”
Workers at RAF have been on strike since last week and their employer has said that their demands through Numsa were without merit as, despite the fund being insolvent, it adheres to a benchmarked remuneration policy.
Responding to the demands CEO Eugene Watson said: “Numsa’s demands are rooted in their insistence that the RAF adopt unverified, nebulous proposed salary scales, which the fund cannot accede to. Numsa, which represents just under 36 percent of the entire staff complement, is one of two unions operating within the RAF workplace”.
However, Numsa on Wednesday said: “As a militant trade union which cares about workers and their families, Numsa will do everything legally possible to force RAF to be accountable to workers and the public. We will strike until the Transport minister agrees to meet with us to deal with the problems at RAF.”