South Africa

PICKET ACTION

Iziko employees to continue protest after talks with management fail

Iziko employees to continue protest after talks with management fail
Iziko employees are demanding equal benefits but management says this may take a while to implement. (Photo: Karabo Mafolo)

A day after Nehawu representatives and Iziko Museum of South Africa management met to discuss their grievances, workers were not satisfied with management’s response and decided to continue protesting today.

“The ball is in Iziko’s court. We’ve put our issues on the table and they need to put something tangible on the table. Workers want something tangible, they want something they can look at and be comfortable with. At the moment Iziko is playing around,” said Wandile Kasibe, a shop steward, about the meeting with management on Monday.

Iziko has 226 employees, and on Monday and yesterday, groups of 10 to 25 employees took turns during their lunch hour to picket outside the Slave Lodge and the South African Museum.

Iziko operates 11 museums, including the Slave Lodge, and the South African Museum.

Nehawu representatives had given management a list of demands, among them a 12% wage increase, equal benefits and that workers not be charged for parking.

Workers claim that they do not receive equal benefits, which Iziko has acknowledged, saying it “made a decision to undertake a process to appoint an independent professional law firm to investigate the entire institution’s benefits structure”.

“On the issue of benefits, they said that they agree with us but that it’s a lengthy process. But two years ago, when these demands came up, they said the same thing,” said an Iziko staff member who did not wish to be named.

“Now they’re saying they need to get a legal opinion and that will be given to the council in March. Now they wanted us to choose and prioritise what we want, in terms of medical aid and housing. Comrade Molebatsi [Tuka] asked: how do you ask people to choose between electricity and water?” 

In a letter sent to Tuka, a Nehawu regional organiser, Iziko CEO Rooksana Omar points out that they are only willing to give employees a 5.5% wage increase because it is “prudent for management not to exceed the government grant, which is the only guaranteed income of Iziko”.

“Nehawu has demanded an increase of 12%, so the chief financial officer shared that the salary budget is already 97% of the expected grant.”

The letter also notes that over the past three years Iziko’s funding from government has lessened by more than R2-million each year.

According to Iziko’s 2018/19 annual report, the grant it receives from the Department of Sports, Arts and Culture increased by 5% from just under R72-million to R75-million.

Even though management discussed wage increases and benefits, Tuka claims they refused to discuss the issue of contract workers “because they said it was not on the agenda”.

But Omar says that Nehawu and management had already agreed to the agenda before Monday’s meeting.

According to Iziko’s 2018/19 annual report, by the beginning of April 2018 Iziko had 53 contract workers who are mainly museum attendants and front-desk workers.

A museum attendant, who did not wish to be named, said her contract stipulated that her working days are Monday to Fridays, “but those aren’t my working days because I have to work on weekends as well, but we only get paid overtime for working on Sundays”.

Omar disputes this:

“Iziko support staff have collectively agreed to a rotating overtime system – this ensures that we keep our museums open to the public over a weekend. The rotating overtime system has one team working for five consecutive days from Monday to Friday, and they are off on a Saturday, while the second team in the rotation, works for five consecutive days from Tuesday to Saturday – thus their work-week ends on a Saturday. 

“Overtime is paid after an employee has worked for five consecutive days of a work-week. In the event that the fifth day is a Saturday, this would be part of the regular work-week, and the employee is paid normal pay. The teams alternate work-weeks.”

The workers will also march to Parliament tomorrow, to hand over their list of demands to the Minister of Sports, Arts and Culture, Nathi Mthethwa. DM

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