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NC parks face shutdown

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Negotiations collapsed at the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) after the parties could not agree on a wage increase

Flowers of Namaqualand Park. Picture: Supplied

TRADE union members have threatened a national shutdown at South African National Parks (SANParks) after wage negotiations with the tourism giant collapsed.

According to the Health and Other Services Personnel Trade Union of South Africa (Hospersa) two other unions are also in support of the shutdown.

“All three recognised unions at SANParks are looking to put pressure on the employer to offer their members a better wage increase. We have cautioned SANParks to address the issue of a fair remuneration for its members or risk a negative impact on its tourism revenue and conservation efforts during the industrial action,” Hospersa public relations officer Kevin Halama said in a statement on Friday.

SanParks in the Northern Cape include: Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, Richtersveld National Park, Namaqualand National Park and Mokala National Park, among others.

According to Halama, negotiations collapsed at the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) after the parties could not agree on a wage increase.

“The commissioner had recommended that parties settle for an 8% increase which the unions were willing to accept, however SANParks could only offer a 6.5% increase. Parties are now set to meet on Wednesday to finalise plans for industrial action,” Halama said.

He added that union members were disappointed that SANParks failed to come up with the 8% offer as recommended by the commissioner to end the impasse.

“These negotiations have dragged on for far too long as our members have been waiting for their increase since April. We will now resort to our last course of action which is industrial action to force the employer to improve on its offer,” added Halama.

The talks of industrial action comes at a time when SANParks gears up for its annual free access week from September 8 to 15.

During this week, visitors will gain free access to all 21 SANParks facilities.

“Industrial action by union members will affect day-to-day services which include household and visitor activities like guided walks and game drives as well as petrol filling stations. Visitors will have difficulty accessing the parks at entrance gates and camp receptions where services will also be affected. Our members, who include field rangers, field guides, petrol attendants, receptionists and hut attendants, are very upset that the employer has failed to meet the unions’ demands at the CCMA,” said Halama.

He added that members were also unhappy that SANParks has failed to implement a correct rate of pay for payment of Sunday and public holidays.

“Together with the two other unions, close to five thousand disgruntled employees are now gearing up for a nationwide strike in the days to come. We appeal to SANParks to reconsider its position by paying fair wages in order to avoid industrial action that will negatively impact its revenue and conservation efforts,” concluded Halama.

He pointed out that when they reported back to their members last week, “they were extremely angry”.

“Some of our members are not willing to wait until Wednesday for a strike certificate. They are willing to participate in an unprotected strike starting from Sunday when the free weeks at SanParks start,” Halama said.

However, Halama said yesterday that members had not embarked on an unprotected strike. “Our shop stewards have indicated that they will wait for the outcome of Wednesday’s meeting with the CCMA before deciding on any action.”

Meanwhile, SanParks has said that it has contingency plans in place. “We remain committed to resolving the impasse with the unions. Any impending strike action will not disrupt operations. We have already submitted our picketing plan to the CCMA we are waiting for the unions to do the same. SanParks has also asked the unions to supply a number of workers who plan to participate in industrial action,” Reynold Thakhuli, SanParks acting head of communication, said on Friday.