Nehawu strikers defiant
Parliament secretary branded a ‘dictator and lone ranger’
PARLIAMENTARY secretary Gengezi Mgidlana yesterday became enemy number one for hundreds of parliamentary workers, who have demanded his removal for failing to act “in good faith” in the ongoing industrial action.
He is blamed for the police assault on workers on Wednesday, when stun grenades were fired at striking staff.
Now there are fears Parliament’s business could grind to a halt because workers say they will continue protesting until their demands are met.
To rousing applause in the packed Old Assembly yesterday their leader, National Education Health and Allied Workers Union regional chairman Sthembiso Tembe, demanded: “Mgidlana must go.”
He branded Mgidlana “a dictator and a lone ranger who does not listen to anyone”.
Tembe was also applauded when he told workers they could go home and wash their Nehawu T-shirts so they could be fresh for the strike on Monday.” Since the dawn of democracy, have workers in Parliament ever been so unhappy?”
He accused Mgidlana of twisting the terms of the agreement and lying about the cost of implementing workers’ demands.“We can’t continue to speak to somebody who undermines us.”
Tembe called on National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete and National Council of Provinces chairwoman Thandi Modise to take over the negotiations.
The workers have been protesting inside the parliamentary precinct, disrupting committee meetings and facing riot police.
They claim they embarked on the unprotected strike because Parliament was not honouring the spirit and letter of an agreement signed with Nehawu in March.
They were also unhappy parliamentary vetting, previously valid for 10 years, was now being handled by private agencies.
The March agreement, to stand for two years, includes payment of performance bonuses, pension provisions, recognition of employees’ improved qualifications, medical aid cover, long- service awards, and group life cover. The agreement also said performance bonuses must be based on a percentage of the total package, not just salary.
Nehawu represents most of Parliament’s 1 389 employees, mostly white-collar employees in the committee and documents sections, translation unit and the parliamentary protection services, but also long-term cleaners.
Mgidlana maintains Nehawu was raising “new issues” outside the agreement, which could only be raised after the end of the standing agreement in March 2017.
Yesterday he said the workers were involved in an “illegal industrial action”, and that R50 million would be required to meet the demands.
ON STRIKE: Nehawu regional head Sthembiso Tembe addresses striking parliamentary workers yesterday in the Old Assembly about their wage dispute. He told them to go home and prepare for further protests on Monday.