Post Office, union in recognition row

2011-04-17 11:13

Johannesburg - Mailing and banking parastatal the South African Post Office (Sapo) is allegedly defying an order by the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) to pay a new union about R2.5m and give it recognition status.

The CCMA made the ruling on February 14 that the Post Office should pay the South African Postal Workers' Union (Sapwu) the money backdated from the day when the union could prove it had reached a required threshold.

Recognition status allows a union to get its members' monthly affiliation fees directly from the employer, paving the way for the union to represent the workers during labour disputes.

Sapo and a majority labour union at the parastatal, the Communication Worker' Union (CWU), had set the threshold for a new union at 30% of the total workforce plus one member.

Sapwu's spokesperson, Tutu Mokoena, said Sapo's failure to recognise the union was inconveniencing its members.

"Sapwu has no funds, and we are forced to pop out money from our own pockets to represent our members during labour disputes," said Mokoena.

The monthly affiliation fees for 11 months total R2.5m.

However, this amount could be higher as Sapwu's membership had been rising during the period.

Mokoena accused Sapo of trampling on Sapwu's members' right to freedom of association.

Maphutha Diaz, Sapo's human resources boss, said the parastatal had asked the CCMA to review its decision.

"There were fundamental differences between Sapo and Sapwu concerning how the CCMA award should be applied," said Diaz. "The CCMA decision has subsequently been taken on review."

Diaz said Sapwu needed to reach a membership level of 40% plus one member to enjoy full ­organisational rights.

"The Post Office is currently planning an independent audit process to verify membership percentages. Both CWU and Sapwu will immediately be informed of the outcome," he said.

Sapwu and Sapo had been embroiled in the recognition status dispute since 2009.

At that time, Sapo told Sapwu it could not give the union recognition status before the union secured a threshold of 4?381 members of the parastatal's 14?000 work force.

Each member must pay R50 a month as a union affiliation fee.

Workers who do not have a union automatically pay an agency fee to the union with the majority members. CWU is the majority union at Sapo.

Sapwu finally reached the threshold last May and signed a settlement agreement with Sapo, whereby the company confirmed that the union had reached the required threshold.

Instead of recognising Sapwu, however, the parastatal and CWU increased the threshold to 40%, and signed the agreement to this effect on January 19. Sapwu then referred the matter to the CCMA.

Lawrence Nowosenetz, CCMA commissioner for the postal services sector in the award, said: "Sapwu can retrospectively enjoy organisational rights from the date that Sapwu attained the 30% plus-one-member threshold from November 9, 2010 or earlier if it is able to verify this with Sapo."

Meanwhile, Mokoena said Sapwu this week informed Sapo management that it had reached 41% membership.

"We sent the email about the membership increase on Monday, but we are yet to get a response from Sapo," said Mokoena.