Source: jacarandfm


The South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU) is disappointed by the failure of the Temporary Employment Relief Scheme (TERS) application, which was made to help provide a reprieve to the SA Post Office (SAPO) so that retrenchments could be delayed while looking for a permanent solution to avert them altogether.

SAFTU and its affiliate in the Post Office, the Democratic Postal and Communication Workers Union (DEPACU) reiterate the call on the TERS to provide temporary relief. However, we note that this will only be temporary and will not solve the problem in the long term. The government must urgently invest in the SA Post Office to capitalise it and bring it to positive equity.

We demand that the government support SAPO by giving them at least 30% of their postal services business budget. Government spends between 30 and 50 billion rands on mail–post and telecommunication business. A 30% of this will amount to R6 – 9 billion annually. This financial support, policy reforms, and strategic guidance will save SAPO. From this perspective, we believe that SAPO does not need government handouts but a comprehensive investment. In the meantime, the government must honour the commitment it made to provide R3.8 billion to turn the SAPO around under Business Rescue Package, without considering retrenchments.

To recover and provide services to the public, SAPO must also solve the failures of corporate governance, lack of digital transformation, and other factors that have contributed to its decline. This includes ensuring it is positioned to thrive in the age of the digital revolution by adapting to the changing nature of the mail industry.

Business Rescue and Retrenchments

In fighting to avert the liquidation process, the Department of Communications applied for SAPO to put on a Business Rescue Plan. The Business Rescue Plan maintained that 6,000 workers from the current staff complement should be retrenched in line with the conditionality of the government’s assistance to help avoid SAPO’s liquidation. This plan, while necessary, underscores the need for the TERS programme to provide temporary relief and buy the unions and management time to find a solution to retrenchments.

The retrenchment consultations commenced and were concluded through a facilitated process at the beginning of this year. By the end of March 2024, the SA Post Office issued retrenchment notices to 4700 workers. This urgent situation called for immediate action from the trade unions and workers.

TERS and Collective Agreement

To halt the liquidation of SAPO and the massive retrenchments, the Trade Unions and the Post Office supported the Business Rescue process. They further entered into a Collective Agreement with the SAPO to stop the retrenchments which were identified in the Business Rescue Plan. DEPACU and the South African Postal Workers Union (SAPWU) represent the overwhelming majority of workers at SAPO. The unions, as the driving force, accepted this agreement with all its weaknesses because they found themselves between a rock and a hard place. There were only two choices on the table – that SAPO gets liquidated with all 10,000 remaining workers losing their jobs at once or embracing the TERS programme that will buy the unions space and time of twelve months to try to find a solution to retrenchments.

SAFTU and DEPACU note the weaknesses of the collective agreement, which the new developments (the failure of the TERS application) have already exposed. The withdrawal of the retrenchment notices depended on TERS’s approval. These weaknesses underscore the urgent need for government support and investment in the SA Post Office. Whilst calling on government to capitalise on the SA Post Office, we encourage trade unions to embark on a strike to fight against retrenchments and to insist on the government’s rescue package to be implemented.

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