Source: GroundUp, Ashraf Hendricks

The South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU) and its affiliate, the Democratic Postal and Communications Union (DEPACU, are dismayed and disappointed by the approval of a Business Rescue Plan that proposes to retrench up to 6 000 workers. This retrenchment will throw workers into destitute and poverty, especially in the context of a rising cost of living and elevated household debt levels.

This plan to retrench about 6 000 workers was proposed early this year, and is part of a medium term plan to down-size the SA Post Office 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.

However, the downsizing is inextricably linked with the down-ward spiral of the SA Post Office. The retrenchments of workers means that post office branches are understaffed and cannot meet demand. This leads to customer dissatisfaction. In other instances, it accompanies branch closures. But branch closures alone mean the revenue generation streams are minimising, which contributes to further economic loses.

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