Administrators call out senior parliamentary management
The strike by parliamentary staff has revealed cracks in the institution’s management, with mid-level managers rebelling against Secretary to Parliament Gengezi Mgidlana’s hardline attitude towards striking workers.
This week, more than 70 mid-level administrators wrote to Mgidlana and asked him not to enforce the no-work, no-pay rule on workers who took part in the four-week strike that severely disrupted the work of Parliament.
In the letter to Mgidlana, which was copied to National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete and National Council of Provinces Chairperson Thandi Modise, the managers said the national legislature should avoid action that would undermine future relations with its workers.
The group, which calls itself Concerned Managers and Specialists, called on Mgidlana not to insist on the no-work, no-pay rule, to offer trauma support to all staff with a view to restoring trust and good working relations, and to come up with a short-term plan for reintegrating staff into operations.
They also asked Mgidlana to make a commitment to establishing a forum for managers and specialists where they could raise their concerns and challenges, improve internal communication and provide input into institutional decision making.
Several Parliament sources have told City Press that the move by the managers and specialists was “unprecedented”.
“They are basically calling out the senior management. It has never happened before,” said a senior administrator.
The mid-level managers and specialists include content advisers, legal advisers, managers within the committee sections and other managers reporting to unit heads.
City Press understands that Mgidlana and the managers met on Friday to discuss issues raised in the letter, but because the strike was called off, the discussions were not completed.
Parliament spokesperson Luzuko Jacobs said there was no need to respond to a letter that has “not been received” and whose author was not even identified.
“The letter is unsigned and is allegedly written by management to management. We can’t be speculating and making wild guesses about such matters,” he said.
However, City Press understands from an official, who cannot be named due to fear of victimisation, that the letter by mid-level managers led to a meeting on Friday. Friday’s meeting was confirmed by two other sources.
Throughout the strike, managers had to keep a record of employees who turned up for work. A separate strikers’ attendance register was also kept and had to be submitted to senior management.
When Parliament went into lockdown on November 25, access was strictly controlled by police armed with lists of names. It is understood that each employee had a comment next to their name indicating whether or not they were on strike.
“Line managers and specialists are caught up between their obligations towards the staff we manage and the instructions of senior management … we also have no representation in terms of finding a platform to voice our concerns,” says the letter, which City Press has seen.
“Many of us are vulnerable due to the contract nature of our posts,” they group added.
However, Parliament and its presiding officers have adopted a hardline attitude.
Modise indicated during a press conference last month that dismissals were an option at that stage.
“If that ends up in Parliament parting company with its workers, that will be a sad day. It might be done, but we are not there yet,” said Modise on November 24, the day singing National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union members occupied the Chamber. The occupation led to the cancellation of the two sittings that were scheduled for that day.
Speaking at a Cape Town Press Club lunch this week, Modise reiterated that action would be taken against workers who had broken the law during the strike.
On Friday, the striking employees ended their month-long strike when they accepted an agreement that left many of them disappointed.