Parliament to enforce interdict against striking staff

Briefing journalists on Tuesday evening on the ongoing strike by hundreds of support staff, secretary to Parliament Gengezi Mgidlana said the interdict, which prevents workers from picketing and protesting on the premises of the legislature, was still be in effect five years later.

“We are basically at this point in time working very tirelessly within the institution and the South African security services in this regard — the police — in order to manage the situation and make sure that the actions that are taken, are taken within the confines of the law, the confines of the agreements that we have, the confines of the interdict …,” Mgidlana said.

Tuesday marked the second day of a stoppage by hundreds of members of the National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) over employment conditions. The staff protested outside the National Council of Provinces and the National Assembly chamber, a national key point, while a sitting was underway.

Gengezi said while negotiations with the union would continue, Parliament would not allow any disruptions to its work.

“You can’t stop people from doing their work. You can’t stop the work of Parliament. Those issues really are non-negotiable,” he said.

The 11am sitting of the National Assembly was cancelled as a result of the strike on Tuesday, as well as four portfolio committee meetings.

Workers are demanding better pay and pension benefits, an end to outsourcing of services at the legislature, and for Parliament to abandon the controversial process of re-vetting all staff for security purposes.

“We are going to continue until our demands are met,” said the chairperson of the parliamentary branch of Nehawu, Sthembiso Tembe.

He added that ANC chief whip Stone Sizani had earlier also asked for a meeting with Nehawu to resolve the stand-off.

“The chief whip of the ANC is also intervening and has asked to meet with us,” he added.

Sizani’s office had issued a statement late on Monday expressing concern about the situation and hoped that it could be resolved rapidly.

“We are naturally concerned by the strike, which has the potential to impact on the operations of Parliament and the intensive programme of both the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces in the few remaining weeks of the 2015 parliamentary programme.”

However, a meeting of the chief whips’ forum later concluded that political parties could not intevene in a dispute between Parliament, as an employer, and the support staff.

DA chief whip John Steenhuisen issued a statement accusing parliamentary management of allowing the trade union to hold the institution to ransom.

“The secretary to Parliament, Gengezi Mgidlana, and even the Speaker Baleka Mbete have failed to provide adequate leadership and implement measures to mitigate protest action,” he said.

“There therefore needs to be leadership shown by the presiding officers and the Secretary to ensure that Parliament can continue its work urgently.”

Nehawu is accusing Parliament of reneging on an agreement reached in March to address complaints regarding the pension fund system.

While striking Nehawu members, dressed in red t-shirts, sang and danced inside the parliamentary precinct, police could be seen strapping on protective riot gear outside the gates.

“They should stay there,” commented Tembe.

The police later formed a chain outside Tuynhuys, barring the way to the office of President Jacob Zuma. He is on an official visit to Germany. -ANA

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