The Leadership of the United National Transport Union (UNTU) resolved our concerns regarding the R222 million loan to SA Express by Transnet after a meeting with Siyabonga Gama, Chief Group Executive Officer, yesterday afternoon.
Transnet made it clear that their wage mandate for the wage negotiations were finalised in November 2017, a month prior to the loan former Minister of Public Enterprises, Lynn Brown, instructed the state-owned enterprise to grant to SA Express.
According to Transnet the R222 million would never have been considered to be added to its wage bill as the loan which will be repaid with interest, was considered to be an investment.
Transnet felt that the company disclosed the existence of the loan to Organised Labour when they presented it in the fine print of one of its financial presentations. Copies of this presentation were not given to representatives of UNTU who attended.
Steve Harris, General Secretary of UNTU, told Gama that this conduct of the employer was unacceptable. Had UNTU members been informed of the loan prior to the Union signing the wage agreement, UNTU would not have obtained a mandate from the majority of our members in Transnet.
According to Harris R190 million of the R222 million would have given Transnet employees a further 1% salary increase. The lowest paid UNTU members in Transnet finds themselves in a situation where they are unable own property as they earn too much to qualify for an RDP-home from Government and too little to qualify for a bond. “They are debt strung.”
Although UNTU acknowledges Transnet’s right to make contributions where the company deem fit, Harris pointed out that this was money that could have been used towards the advantage of employees.
“Transnet processed 32 sponsorships and donations in the previous financial year that amounted to more than R9 million of which R2,5 million went towards Independent Newspapers to encourage dialogue on nation building.”
According to Harris Transnet should apply the principle of “charity begins at home” and focus on sponsoring and assisting its employees and their siblings instead of non-related companies.
To illustrate his point Harris mentioned UNTU member and shore crane operator Melikaya Nonyukela who works at Transnet’s Port of Nqgura as example. Nonyukela was refused any assistance from Transnet when he applied last year to represent South Africa in the World Draughts Championship in the United States. He managed to generate his own funding and finished in third place.
This year Nonyukela successfully defended his title as the Draughts Champion of the Eastern Cape. This means he has once again qualified to represent South Africa in the World Draughts Championship in the United States.
According to Gama he is the only person in Transnet who can grant sponsorships to employees and he was not aware of Nonyukela’s application. “I have granted sponsorships to lots of Transnet employees to go abroad and represent us and I am very proud of this,” Gama said.
Transnet will ensure that all its managers are aware of what steps employees like Nonyukela should follow to have his application submitted to Gama’s office.
Transnet agreed to put in more effort to communicate the result of its current cash flow problem and the impact it has on the business to employees. Gama also affirmed his commitment to keep employees updated on the progress of the ongoing investigation into the allegations revealed in the Gupta-leaks.
Both parties reaffirmed their mutual respect for each other and the roles that both play in bettering the lives and working conditions of UNTU members.
Gama also undertook to make sure that Organised Labour is informed in future of financial decisions Transnet takes that might impact on the mandate that UNTU members give to the Union.
The R222 million issue is considered to be resolved and negotiations at the Transnet Bargaining Council (TBC) about other employee benefits will resume soon.
Issued on behalf of UNTU by Sonja Carstens, Media and Liaison Officer. For UNTU Press Statements phone 082 463 6806 or e-mail email@example.com