Call centre employees are striking over poor working conditions and low salaries. By Vincent Lali for GROUNDUP.
First published by GroundUp
On Wednesday, about 45 call agents from the 10111 South African Police Service (SAPS) call centre downed phones and left their offices in Maitland, Cape Town. They protested outside on Jan Smuts Drive. Passing motorists hooted in support.
Wearing South African Policing Union (SAPU) T-shirts, they sang struggle songs and waved placards with “We want level 7” and “R250-million spent on Zuma security in Nkandla”.
The agents want better working conditions and a salary increase from level five to level seven.
SAPU Provincial Chairperson Helen Fritz said, “Today we go on strike because SAPS has failed to keep a promise former National Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega made – that she would increase salaries.”
The call centre agents say they earn R145,000 (about R12,000 per month) per annum and they want R227,000.
On 6 June, the agents vowed to bring the call centre to a standstill if they were not listened to. They demonstrated outside the offices of the Western Cape Police and handed over a memorandum of demands and grievances to Deputy Commissioner Major-General Mzwandile Mzamane.
“Up until now, we have not received any feedback from SAPS, and now members are angry,” said Fritz. “SAPS bosses have no respect for our members.”
Poor working conditions
At the protest in June, call centre agents said that their work conditions left much to be desired. They said the roof leaked and part of the ceiling came down after the big storm in June. They said the toilets were blocked and the stench entered the canteen. They also said they use threadbare headphones and have broken chairs.
“We work in a pigsty as our offices are not cleaned at weekends and on public holidays,” said call centre agent Mthobeli Matyolwana.
“We are not treated as members of SAPS, and we earn peanuts while other call centre agents working at SARS and Home Affairs earn decent salaries,” he said.
Since June, GroundUp has tried numerous times to verify the poor working conditions, but SAPS management refused us permission to enter the call centre and to see for ourselves.
Some agents work shifts from 6am to 6pm and find it difficult to get transport. Angel Willie said she was robbed in 2015 and in 2016 at the train station going home. The agents want transport to be provided.
The core demand is about salaries. Fritz said SAPU leaders and SAPS bosses are still locked in fruitless discussions. “Even last night, our leaders were engaged in discussions at national level, but they are not making any progress,” she said.
Call centre agent Mbuthokazi Mlalandle said she and her colleagues now feel cheated by bosses who promised them salary increases. “SAPS bosses have taken us for a big ride,” she said.
Mlalandle said that due to the strike the Western Cape police have got support personnel and flying squad staff answering the phones. “Most of the new staff are not familiar with how our system is operated … Members of the community will suffer because they will not be able to assist them,” she said.
Western Cape police spokesperson Lieutenant-Colonel Andrè Traut said the Maitland 10111 Call Centre is fully operational and contingency plans are in place to avoid any interruptions in service delivery. Police management is monitoring the situation. DM
Photo: Agents from the 10111 South African Police Service call centre protest on Jan Smuts Drive, Maitland. Photo: Vincent Lali