The South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU) and its affiliate, the Democratic Postal and Communications Union, are appalled by the mismanagement of the SA Post Office that has landed it in a perpetual crisis. This crisis inconveniently affects workers on a continuous basis.


The management of post office has unveiled their plans to retrench over 6 000 workers, and down-size the current headcount from over 16 000 in 2020 to about 9000 in 2024. This drive is based on their restructuring plans that have, amongst others, identified the “staff costs” as the “highest cost drivers” of the “cost base that far exceeds its revenues”.

The so-called “right-sizing” plans are, in plain language, curling of jobs. Though “right-sizing” appears like a logical step if the operating expenses exceed the revenue, this hides the problem underlying the supposed imbalanced-sizing or “wrong-sized”. The mismanagement of the SA Post Office and the closure of branches is the real cause of the imbalanced size of the staff, and the perpetual state of insolvency it has been in for the past few years.

In 2013, SA Post Office had 2 486 access points of its branch network. Many branches have closed, reducing the branches to 1 266. From 1236 in March 2021, the fleet was reduced to 366 in March 2022, leaving the SA Post Office having to in some areas rely on outsourcing transportation of mail. Our members working at Witspos – once the largest and most efficient mail centre in Southern Africa – have told us that they often post mail through interprovincial bus-lines.

The actual retrenchments, driven mainly through offering workers voluntary severance package and reducing the age eligibility for early retirement to 50 years, have seen the staff declining by 2 013 from 16 003 to 13 990 in just 26 months. The culmination of all these retrenchments means that the staff compliment has declined from 26 000 in 2000 to 13 990 today.

This does not end here, it’s a down-sizing spiral that is headed towards a 9 000-headcount mark. This does not mean after reaching their retrenchment target they will stop, they may go lower 9000.

Wage cuts and unpaid benefits

Our members have for quite some time now been surprised to be told when in hospitals for medical check-ups or lying on their hospital beds for emergency or chronic health reasons, that their company has not been paying the medical contributions into the MediPos Medical Scheme, rendering them not eligible for assistance because their payments are not up-to-date. This gross inconvenience, which has cost some workers their lives, was revealed to have been only one part of larger defaults on benefits payments by the SA Post Office.

In 2022, it became clear that the Post Office was also failing to pay the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF), the pension contributions to the pension fund holder and personal income tax to the South African Revenue Services (SARS). This means some dismissed workers could not access their full UIF pay-out because some of their contributions were not paid, and those who went on retirement struggled with pension fund pay-outs.

Lately, the SA Post Office has announced that it will cut workers’ wages by up to 40%. This will worsen the living standard of post office workers amid the rising cost of living with headline inflation above 7%, reflective of the high food, fuel and transport inflation, including the ever-rising electricity tariffs.

Political economy of the SA Post Office crisis

By its commitment to neoliberalism, the ANC government has corporatized its SOEs, leaving them to survive by commercial creed: raise enough revenue to meet operating expenses.

This has left the SA Post Office, amidst the mismanagement that has left it in a deep financial crisis, scrabbling to live by its balance sheet. Liberal organisations like the DA, are saying “no bailout must be continanced”. As an alternative, they are calling on the government to “seek out private investors” to help turn-around SA Post Office. Their calls, echoes a call made by the former CEO, who has for some time been offering to buy a huge stake post office, but remain with the government as partial owner in Private-Partnership Programme (PPP) fit. The PP programmes are nothing but models in which costs are socialised and profits privatised.

Not only copying from the “play-book” of the DA, but reflecting his government’s commitment to neoliberal austerity, Minister Enoch Godongwane did not avail any money for SA Post Office in the 2022 Medium Term Budget Policy Statement (MTBPS) in October. In fact, the MTBPS did not even mention the SA Post Office. This is a loud pronouncement that they are starving the SA Post Office of the necessary liquidity so that they set it up for privatisation.

Impact on beneficiaries

The dire consequences of this crisis that has engulfed the SA Post Office does not affect workers only, but also the overwhelming beneficiaries of public service.

In the financial year ending March 2022, the post office did not meet its mail delivery performance target of 92%. Instead, it only achieved 68%. This means ordinary people who still rely on the post office are being inconvenienced perennially.

The closure of many branches has also meant that many people, especially in rural areas, can no longer receive or send mails and parcels. To do that, they will have to procure private mail posting companies at a costly price. In fact, some of them cannot even access those private services as their offices are not available in those rural areas.

Given this crisis, SAFTU and DEPACU are:

  • Seeking audience with the Minister of Communications and the Minister of Finance
  • Planning a picket that will be accompanied by a press briefing to announce a programme to resist austerity on 07 February 2022
  • Planning a demonstration to register our rejection of the looming austerity budget to be announced by Minister Godongwana on 23 February 2022
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