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Protectors to ‘abandon’ MECs

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‘We have been exploited for a long time. This situation has caused a lot of tension, not only at work but also in our homes ...’

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VIP PROTECTORS who safeguard members of the Northern Cape Executive Council have warned that there will be consequences after their overtime pay was reduced, with a revised maximum claim of 100 hours per month or 25 hours per week.

Protectors from the premier and MECs units indicated that they would not be held responsible should anything happen to politicians, legislature staff and state officials, as they would abandon their duties as soon as they had clocked in their maximum claimable hours.

“We have been exploited for a long time. This situation has caused a lot of tension, not only at work but also in our homes. It has created a situation of mistrust in our relationships, because you claim you are going to work and yet we have nothing to show for it. This situation has caused a setback in our lives,” the protectors said.

The police have been summoned to return to Parliament within the next two weeks in an attempt to resolve the revised overtime hours, which appears to have only been implemented in the Northern Cape.

Members of Parliament advised deputy national commissioner on management advisory services, Lieutenant-General Francinah Ntombenhle Vuma, earlier this month that, despite her assurances, the matter had still not be resolved.

Vuma admitted to the portfolio committee on police that the payment of overtime in the Northern Cape was not being implemented consistently.

“This is due to the fact that we operate in a unique environment. In the majority of cases, they are working a lot of overtime and that is putting budgetary constraints on the organisation. We did address the issue and meetings were held with the Safety and Security Sectoral Bargaining Council. The situation has been resolved,” Vuma said.

She added that the national police commissioner, General Khehla Sitole, had approved the new policy.

The portfolio committee on police advised her to sort out the problem as a matter of urgency.

“SAPS must engage with the protectors. We can’t have labour instability.”

Protection services in the Northern Cape had registered grievances with the provincial commissioner, the Minister of Police and the portfolio committee on police regarding the payment of overtime, which was reduced without consultation.

The matter is currently at arbitration level.

According to the revised policy, VIP protectors can claim a maximum of 100 hours per month or 25 hours per week.

The South African Police Union (Sapu) registered a labour dispute after protectors were not paid for executing “special duties” during the ANC’s provincial elective conference that was held between May 11 to 14 in Colesberg last year.

The union pointed out that the overtime, which exceeded the prescribed 25 hours, was approved before the commencement of the operation.

“Protection services were expected to work beyond their normal time of working including on the weekend.”

The complaint stated that protectors were informed of the reduced hours and that they were not entitled to claim more than 25 hours per week, regardless of the amount of overtime worked.

“All of us submitted claims and the overtime claims of the managers and support staff, which exceeded the 25 hours per week threshold, were processed. Those of the close protectors were not even touched. Conflicts erupted thereafter between management and employees.

“General Sithole was adamant that they were following the prescripts of the policy and we were adamant that they were misinterpreting the policy”

The VIP protectors stated that despite promises to withdraw the overtime amendment policy, following engagements with Sapu five months ago, it had not been rescinded yet.

“We are still waiting. General Sithole is not a man of his word.”

They had advised the divisional commissioner of protection and security services in September last year that they would refuse to work over the mandated 25 hours per week, which had been “fraudulently implemented”.

“Figures were altered and submitted for payment. Our overtime was cut without us attesting our signature. This constitutes a serious misconduct and infringement that amounts to fraud and uttering.

“We, as a collective, will no longer risk and sacrifice our lives and our family time by working overtime hours that go beyond 25 hours per week. Once we have reached 25 hours, we will knock off with immediate effect.”

The letter indicated that although they had tried to address this issue in a “very professional and civilised manner”, their grievances had fallen on deaf ears.

“We further raised our challenges with General Sithole through the provincial office, but again, due to poor employer-employee relations, the provincial management displayed an arrogant attitude, as always, and proceeded in cutting our hours to 25 hours per week instead of addressing our challenge.”

Sithole, in correspondence in October last year, reminded protectors that they had a duty to render their services “at all times”.

“Therefore, this office cannot agree with your position that protection duties will not be rendered by members after the maximum 25 hours of overtime It is not correct to consider money as a deciding factor when it comes to the protection of a human life. Being a police officer requires a measure of sacrifice and to be patriotic to the constitution of the Republic.”

Sithole appealed to members to perform their duties uninterrupted while they were trying to find a “long-lasting solution to the challenges relating to overtime budgets”.

Provincial police spokesperson, Captain Olebogeng Tawana, indicated that media enquiries had been forwarded to head office “for further handling”.