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Policing Union pushing to stage an indefinite strike that follows Nehawu’s lead

Policing Union pushing to stage an indefinite strike that follows Nehawu’s lead
Police guard one of the entrances to Pelonomi Hospital in Bloemfontein, during Nehawu protests. (Photo: Magdel Louw)

The South African Policing Union (Sapu) is going ahead with plans to follow Nehawu and to embark on an indefinite strike from Friday, 17 March over demands for a 10% pay hike for public servants. SAPS has stated that police officers would not be downing tools – as they are considered essential services – and operational duties will continue.

Sapu last week served a notice on the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) to embark on a strike from Friday, 17 March. 

Speaking to Daily Maverick on Tuesday, 14 March, Sapu national spokesperson Lesiba Thobakgale said the strike is indefinite. The union wants the impasse over pay for the 2022/23 financial year resolved before negotiations on pay for 2023/24 can begin, and is pursuing the 2022/23 demand for a 10% pay increase for public servants.

“It would be a trap for us as labour, to engage in the 2023/24 [negotiations] before we could settle the impasse on pay for 2022/23,” he said.

In November 2022, public sector trade unions including Sapu and Nehawu participated in a picket in Pretoria over the government’s move to unilaterally implement a 3% pay rise this year.

In October 2022, the government unilaterally implemented a 3% increase for public servants, and considered pay rise negotiations for 2022 concluded. Last month, it proposed an average 4.7% increase in the pay of public servants for the 2023/24 financial year.

According to Thobakgale, the union has more than 34,000 members who are not essential service workers, who are affected by the issue of a pay increase. At the end of 2021, Sapu recorded 82,000 members, according to ​​Public Sector Co-ordinating Bargaining Council (PSCBC) figures. 

Amid the disruptions at health facilities during the strike led by the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu), the PSCBC called on the collective trade unions and the government to return to the PSCBC to engage in a facilitated process to resolve the issues last week. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: “Essential service staff must obey court ruling and get back to work, says Health Minister Joe Phaahla

“We participated in the facilitation but it collapsed because we wrote a settlement agreement draft and tabled it, [but] the employer did not want to consider substantive issues, which we believe will resolve the impasse between collective labour and [the employer],” said Thobakgale. 

He said the government on Monday requested that Sapu return to the facilitation process. 

“We participated in the facilitation process up until late hours of the night. But the impasse wasn’t resolved… The dispute is about the 2022/23 [wage negotiations] but the employer did not want to talk about 2022/23, which clearly means they are intentional in not resolving the impasse between ourselves and them.”

The facilitation process was set to resume on the morning of Tuesday, 14 March. 

Thobakgale said the union is still open to engagement, and its will to settle the dispute is evident in its continued participation in the facilitation process. 

“We are hoping that we will be able to reach a settlement agreement and to resolve the impasse,” he said. 

The Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (Popcru) hasn’t issued a notice to strike, but spokesperson Richard Mamabolo told Daily Maverick last Thursday that the union was supporting the demands of Nehawu. 

Pickets at workplaces

“There are pickets going on at different workplaces and we’re intensifying them… Those who are not on duty, do go to the pickets with Nehawu. We have never, at any point, said we are not going to form part of the strike.”

He said the union’s national executive committee would be meeting on Wednesday, 14 March, to decide on the way forward and whether Popcru would issue a strike notice of its own. 

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Police spokesperson Brigadier Athlenda Mathe confirmed to Daily Maverick that SAPS had only received a notice to strike from Sapu, and not Popcru. 

“Only members who are allowed to strike will be able to partake in the strike. The majority of SAPS employees are Police Act members, which include operational members and the 10111 call-takers and dispatchers who are deemed an essential service, and are not allowed to partake in any form of strike,” said Mathe. 

She said none of SAPS’ operational members would down their tools as they are essential service workers.

“It will be business as usual across all stations and all SAPS service points.”

“Only Public Service Act members are allowed to strike and those are members who provide administrative support… All our 1,160 police stations across the country will be fully functional and operational and our members will continue to serve and protect all people living in South Africa,” said Mathe. 

In other protest action, the EFF is determined to embark on its National Shutdown on Monday, 20 March, an event aimed at removing President Ramaphosa from office. DM

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Bruce MacDonald says:

    So, will we notice the difference if SAPS are out on strike?

  • Caroline de Braganza says:

    I find it ironic that 10111 call-takers and dispatchers are essential workers, thus not allowed to strike. The department of police responded to a written parliamentary Q&A recently that only 40% of call centres are staffed overall and over 1.6 million calls went unanswered since 2020 – this figure excludes dropped calls. If this is deemed an essential service, how about providing it in the first place?

  • Rory Macnamara says:

    If it was not for the shocking and disgusting behaviour of protesters would we really notice they are on strike? most of these union members seem to take a sleeping position most of the time anyhow. now the police are they still around?

  • Brad McWalter says:

    So business as usual then?

  • Jane Crankshaw says:

    It is interesting that there is permission for a Security strike on Friday when the EFF have threatened to bring SA to its knees on Monday! Well timed insurrection plan between the ANC/RET faction and the EFF. Who says there is no honour amongst thieves!!!! This is going to be interesting!

  • Libby De Villiers says:

    You can’t stop doing something, you haven’t been doing.
    What will the cat in the hat be doing?

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