The members of the South African Transport and Allied workers Union (Satawu) in the Western Cape have been seeking to close the provincial offices following widespread suspensions and dismissals in the union.
Members say the union is taking their money every month but offers nothing in return.
According to members the suspension of 15 shop stewards, a controversial battle for top provincial positions and the dismissal of two senior provincial officials has left the union moribund.
Cases before the Council for Conciliation Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) are stalled.
Among the cases affected involve three cleaners facing dismissal on charges of theft from DL cleaning company, more than 40 employees of Royal cleaners who have been contesting the termination of their contracts on March 24 and over a 1000 employees from security and freight companies who have complained that their employees refuse to pay provident funds.
The decision to force the closure of the provincial offices follows a demonstration on March 5 by about 15 members who were prevented from entering the Plein Street building by security guards.
Then on Friday March 8 over 30 shop stewards from different sectors marched to the Plein Street office demanding to know why three senior provincial members and 15 shop stewards had been suspended without the membership being consulted or informed.
Provincial coordinator Cyril Mfokofi, administration officer Gloria Luzipho and Organizer Likhona Cita are believed to have been suspended by former provincial secretary Thandubuntu Roto at a Provincial Executive Council meeting on February 16, during which Roto announced his resignation.
The PEC meeting broke up in fisticuffs after allegations were made that Roto was acting on the instructions of national deputy general secretary Nicholus Maziya so that there would be no-one to contest the appointment of Tembela Dakuse as the new acting provincial secretary.
A shop-steward who refused to give her name with fear that her employees might take advantage of the union’s toothlessness, said three union members in her company were facing dismissal following charges of theft.
She said provincial co-ordinator Cyril Mfokofi was handling the case but he never arrived at the CCMA hearing.
She said when she called the Satawu office to try get hold of him she was informed he was suspended.
“What makes me angry is that no one bothered to inform us, the case was postponed more than two times because there’s no one from Satawu to handle the case.”
She said after going in person to the Satawu offices she still received no help.
“(Acting secretary Tembela) Dakuse sent me a sms saying she will call me back but she never did, now we are not allowed to even enter the offices.”
She said if they forced the closure of the provincial office, the national union structure might intervene and listen to members’ complaints.
Union members working for Royal Cleaners in parliament said they’re facing the loss of their jobs at month end.
“Mfokofi was handling the negotiation for our contracts to be renewed but I do not think it’s going to happen especially now that he’ on suspension,” said a shopsteward.
The shop-steward said she only founds out recently that Mfokofi was suspended after she called him asking about their case.
A shop steward in the security industry said he believed he was suspended because he kept on asking questions as to why members were not informed of Roto’s decision to resign before the shock announcement was made at the PEC in February.
“I was shocked to get a letter from Dakuse saying the union is investigating serious allegations of misconduct against me,” he said. “I’m not allowed to go to the offices or contact any member.”
Members in the road freight sector battling the lack of provident fund payment said they were being victimised by their employers as they knew Satawu in the proinvce was fighting internal political issues and had “forgotten” about their members.
“We go to bargaining council an all you will be told is that no one contacted them from Satawu so the case had to be postponed, in no time all those cases will be closed” said a disgruntled union member.
Satawu National spokesperson Vincent Masoga said the union was consulting lawyers regarding the matter.
He said attacks on Satawu officials by union members appeared to be organised by a “senior or experienced saboteur”. – Nombulelo Damba