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Strike shuts down Sars office

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The unions are calling for an 11.4 percent increase while the employer is only prepared to offer 7.1 percent, over the next three years

Picture: Soraya Crowie

THE DOORS of the SA Revenue Service (Sars) in Kimberley were shut yesterday due to strike action by the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) and the Public Servants Association (PSA) over annual increases, the withdrawal of allowances and other issues.

A notice at the entrance of the Sars offices encouraged taxpayers to make use of the Sars eFiling system because of the industrial action.

The unions are calling for an 11.4 percent increase while the employer is only prepared to offer 7.1 percent, over the next three years.

Nehawu indicated that it would embark on an indefinite strike until its demands are met.

PSA provincial manager Steve Ledibane said that there members were on a stay-away yesterday and were expected to return to work today.

“Salary negotiations started in October last year. We are also rejecting the employer’s proposal to award annual salary increments based on general performance. This should be a separate bonus. For years our members have not received increases in line with inflation or the consumer price index. What they are offering is an insult.”

Ledibane pointed out that the public was being deprived of services while the Sars offices remained closed.

“Out of a total of 80 staff members, only seven or eight reported for duty. This will impact on the collection of tax returns. A taxpayer wasted his time and petrol when he drove from Britstown, only to find that the Kimberley office was closed, They cannot say there is no money, when our members assisted in collecting trillions of rand in tax money.”

Nehawu general secretary Zola Saphetha said that numerous attempts were made to avert strike action.

“Members throughout the country ensured that all Sars offices experienced a total shutdown. Employees’ morale was at its lowest while employee benefits are constantly been withdrawn The employment equity is being circumvented to justify the current increase on the already bloated management structure and or figures.”

Saphetha stated that the non-implementation of the due diligence report had led to the conditions of service being compromised. “This has resulted in a ticking time bomb as employees are being pushed beyond their limits.”

Saphetha added that negotiations with Sars had been ongoing for the past five months, without any positive outcome.

“In the middle of negotiations in December 2018, employees’ benefits including the graduate and trainee programme, leave encashment consisting of six days and travel allowances were withdrawn while the leave dispensation was overhauled.”

He said their demands included the reinstatement of all benefits including the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants programme, long service awards, family responsibility leave over a three-year cycle and the granting of prenatal and vaccination leave.

“Sars must compensate employees for recognised improved qualifications in the form of a one percent increase as well as 10 percent bonus.”

Meanwhile, newly-appointed Sars commissioner Edward Kieswetter said yesterday that his biggest mission would be to collect all revenue that was due to the state to bump up the fiscus.

Kieswetter said while restoring public confidence in the revenue service and employees was paramount, his biggest focus would be the collection of outstanding taxes.

“What is also important is to immediately address the deficit in revenue and ensure that we accelerate the work (acting commissioner) Mark (Kingon) and his team have already done so that we give the minister a level of confidence that we will leave no stone untouched to collect every cent due to the fiscus,” Kieswetter.

“Those who thought they had a tax holiday in the last few years, they must know their holiday has ended.”

Keiswetter was appointed to the position on Wednesday to replace disgraced erstwhile Sars boss Tom Moyane, who left behind a broken tax collection agency and a multibillion-rand revenue shortfall.

He was Sars deputy commissioner between 2004 and 2009.

– additional reporting by
Kabelo Khumalo.