Bongisizwe Mpondo, Administrator of the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) is forcing employees of the state owned enterprise (SOE) who are for whatever reason unable to work since the extension of the national Lockdown on 17 April 2020, to use their annual leave until the end of May 2020.
The result will be that all the affected employees will have no alternative, but to deplete their annual leave for the current financial year and will most likely run into a minus during the next financial year, says Steve Harris, General Secretary of the United National Transport Union (UNTU).
UNTU represents the majority of PRASA employees.
According to the Executive Management of PRASA its cashflow situation forces the passenger rail operator to implement this on junior employees despite repeated objections and alternative proposals made by the leadership of UNTU.
“UNTU has been inundated with enquiries from employees who are very upset as to why they have to bear the brunt while other SOE’s are accommodating their employees since President Cyril Ramaphosa declared a national disaster to combat the spreading of the global COVID-19 pandemic.
“UNTU realises that PRASA like other employers are under no legal obligation to pay the affected employees their salaries if they are unable to work. However, the Union believes that in the case of PRASA there is a moral obligation on the employer to treat its hardworking and loyal employees with the same benefits enjoyed by employees of other SOE’s, including loyalty and respect,” says Harris.
PRASA intended to start operating passenger rail services from 4 May 2020 and Minister Fikile Mbalula, Transport Minister, adjusted Government’s regulations to make provision for passenger rail.
The SOE’s management presented UNTU with a comprehensive plan on how it will screen passengers and ensure that they wear facial masks while commuting. PRASA also started with the sanitization of passenger trains of Metrorail to be ready for its services to commence.
“After discussions with the Department of Health on 1 May 2020, PRASA informed UNTU that passenger rail services will not commence with its services yet. UNTU believes this is partly since PRASA will not be able to implement its COVID-19 response plan, without the help from officials from the Department of Health and the South African Police Service (SAPS).
“The harsh reality is that before the outbreak of COVID-19, PRASA were not able to force commuters to pay fairs or to combat vandalism of its infrastructure and cable theft on its own without help from the absent so-called Rapid Rail Response Unit of the SAPS who’s statutory mandate it is.
“UNTU has repeatedly stated over the past few years that PRASA needs the help of all stakeholders to provide a decent, safe and reliable passenger rail service. But once again Government through the Administrator appointed by the Transport Minister is failing PRASA, this time to the detriment of its suffering employees,” says Harris.
UNTU leadership tried to contact the Administrator after PRASA leadership indicated that they did not have any mandate to move on this issue. Mpondo neglected to respond to calls.
This comes after Mpondo asked UNTU to supply him with dates to discuss offering PRASA employee’s voluntary severance packages as alternative to possible retrenchments. PRASA bluntly stated that although they had no wish to get rid of employees, their cash flow situation was forcing them towards this.
PRASA’s serious cashflow problems occurred after Mpondo appointed his Panel of Technical Advisors for his 12 months tenure on 5 February 2020. PRASA did not budget for these advisors nor were their positions advertised to establish if he had the expertise within his own ranks.
“Another appointment is of Makhosini Mgitywa, former spokesperson of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) who changed his surname from Nkosi to Mgitywa on 24 March 2019, as PRASA’s new spokesperson while UNTU is aware of three other seasoned spokespersons in PRASA’s service,” says Harris.
UNTU will refer Mpondo’s conduct to its affiliated federation, the Federation of Trade Unions of South Africa (FEDUSA) to take it up with the COVID-19 Task Team of the National Economic Development and Labour Council (NEDLAC) chaired by President Cyril Ramaphosa.
For more information phone Harris on 082 566 5516.
Issued on behalf of UNTU by Sonja Carstens, Deputy-General Secretary: Media, Liaison and Communication. For UNTU press releases phone Sonja on 082 463 6806 or e-mail email@example.com