Post office wage talks deadlocked

Sapo chief executive Mark Barnes (Oupa Nkosi/M&G)

Sapo chief executive Mark Barnes (Oupa Nkosi/M&G)

Wage negotiations between the South African Post Office (Sapo) and unions remain deadlocked as strike action across the country continues.

Thousands of workers affiliated with the Communication Workers Union, the South African Customs Union and the Democratic Postal and Communications Union (Depacu) downed tools on Friday to demand higher wages.

The unions and representatives from the state-owned entity met on Monday to resolve the wage dispute in talks that were facilitated by the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA).

Prior to the talks, Sapo had offered a 6% wage increase while the unions demanded 12%. According to the unions, workers have not received a wage increase since 2017.

Sapo chief executive Mark Barnes told Cape Talk on Monday that the entity could not afford the 12% wage hike.

READ MORE: Post Office strike halts payment to grant beneficiaries

“We didn’t pull 6% out of a hat. We started at zero and a whole mixture of benefits and that was an all in offer that we tabled and I am hopeful that we will make progress,” Barnes said.

“We all know what the economics are and that where the truth begins and ends when we are negotiating. It is not like we are holding pots of money in reserves.”

Depacu general secretary Levy Zwane told the Mail & Guardian Sapo stuck to their original offer during the negotiations while the unions lowered the wage demand to a 10% increase.

Zwane said that though Depacu had a number of demands, the union had streamlined their proposal to attend to two critical demands: the wage increase and that permanent part-timers, who work four and a half hours a day, be made fully permanent and have their hours raised to eight hours a day.

Though no agreement has been reached, Zwane said he is confident the wage dispute will be resolved.

On whether Depacu was concerned the strike had left hundreds of social grant beneficiaries stranded, Zwane said this was one of the reasons the union was willing to compromise on some of its demands.

Sapo took over the contract from Cash Paymaster Services to distribute social grants, excluding cash grants, on behalf of the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) in April.

“The sooner the strike ends the better, because we can see how it is affecting our people in the community,” Zwane said.

Sarah Smit

Sarah Smit

Sarah Smit both subs and writes for the Mail & Guardian. She joined the M&G after completing her master’s degree in English Literature from the University of Cape Town. She is interested in the literature of the contemporary black diaspora and its intersection with queer aesthetics of solidarity. Her recent work considers the connections between South African literary history and literature from the rest of the Continent. Read more from Sarah Smit

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