“There is a lot of anxiety among staff members as proper consultation processes did not take place”
THE PUBLIC Servants Association (PSA) and the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) in the Northern Cape believe that the merging of the Department of Environment and Nature Conservation and the Department of Agriculture, Environmental Affairs, Rural Development and Land Reform on April 1 is premature and should be postponed until all disputes have been ironed out.
Staff at the Department of Environment and Nature Conservation protested and burnt tyres outside their offices on Wednesday.
PSA provincial manager Steve Ledibane said staff had embarked on strike action since Wednesday.
“There are concerns that some employees were promoted before the process was concluded, while in other cases two officials will fill one post on the organogram. There is a lot of anxiety as proper consultation processes did not take place,” said Ledibane.
“There is inadequate office space to accommodate both departments under one roof. There will also be a shortage of furniture and office equipment as staff are not relocating with their furniture. Officials will have to end up sharing a desk or be expected to occupy an old, unused storeroom.”
Ledibane added that the unions had met with the Office of the Premier and would hold a follow-up meeting on Monday with the acting head of departments in an effort to find solutions.
Nehawu provincial secretary Steffen Cornelius said that the process was being rushed.
“The unions have not been thoroughly consulted. A chamber meeting will be held on Friday (today).”
He indicated that the union’s members have not embarked on any strike action. “They are at work and only expressed their dissatisfaction on Wednesday.”
The director of communications at the Office of the Premier, Monwabisi Nkompela, said a provincial micro-organisational steering committee was overseeing the merger of the two departments.
“The committee has been working tirelessly since last year to facilitate the smooth transition of the merger to ensure that no employee is negatively affected. The committee is dealing with human resources, labour relations, change management, communications, logistics and finance. The placement of staff, training and skills will be part of an ongoing process. Excess staff will be accommodated in other departments and no employee will lose their jobs,” said Nkompela.
He acknowledged that there was a general shortage of office space, where some employees would have to share offices.
“Both offices of the Department of Agriculture, Environmental Affairs, Rural Development and Land Reform in George Street and the Department of Environment and Nature Conservation offices in Long Street will be utilised.”
Nkompela said MEC Mase Manopole would oversee both departments while the post of HOD would be advertised.
“Currently, both HODs are acting and will be able to apply for the position. The MEC will be based at the new head office in Long Street.”
He said the new department – under the banner of the Department of Agriculture, Environmental Affairs, Rural Development and Land Reform – along with its new website would be launched on April 1.
“The branding of the new department will be phased in, starting with the provincial office, as there is no available budget. Provincial Treasury will make the funds available for the purpose of rebranding, including the provision of new uniforms, letterheads, stationery and the branding of vehicles. A detailed summary of the costs will be compiled.”
Nkompela added that the merger would result in a “major cost-saving”.
“The departments had overlapping functions. It is also part of the national and provincial mandate to reduce the number of departments and ministries in the provincial government.”
Nkompela said that weekly meetings were held with the unions to keep them up to date and to iron out potential challenges.
“The unions have been adequately consulted.”