Home South African Solidarity fights for rights of Post Office workers in court

Solidarity fights for rights of Post Office workers in court

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Trade union Solidarity is planning to turn to the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, for an urgent application against the South African Post Office in a bid to secure workers’ rights.

Only 55 out of the 1 416 branches were profitable during lockdown. Picture Leon Lestrade/ANA

PRETORIA – Trade union Solidarity is planning to turn to the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, for an urgent application against the South African Post Office in a bid to secure workers’ rights.

Solidarity had sent a letter of demand to the Post Office – and had given the entity until the close of business yesterday – to provide proof that it had complied with all its statutory and contractual obligations towards its employees to date.

Anton van der Bijl, head of labour law services at the union, said that since April 1 the postal service has failed to meet its statutory and contractual obligations, which include the payment of medical aid contributions, taxes and pension fund contributions on behalf of its employees. This happened while it was continuing to deduct these contributions from salaries, he said.

“Since April, millions of rand have been deducted from employees’ salaries, but the postal service has not paid over a single cent of that money to the relevant funds. This cannot be described as anything less than theft.”

The failure had resulted in its employees’ membership contributions to medical and pension funds being in arrears, he said, which had serious implications and could lead to the termination of these employees’ benefits.

The letter of demand states that the post office is also deducting tax contributions from members as well as skills development levies, but it is apparently failing to pay these contributions over to the state agencies.

Van der Bijl called on the entity to provide proof and confirmation that this money had been paid over to the relevant organs of state. Apart from being prejudicial to the members, it was unlawful not to pay over the deductions, he said.

Van der Bijl confirmed yesterday that they have not yet heard from the Post Office, and they will go ahead with drawing up court papers. He said the salary deductions belonged to the workers and could not be used for the Post Office’s operation liabilities.

“We do not have sympathy with the Post Office’s financial woes. It’s because of bad management and bad decisions.”

The Post Office received a temporary reprieve in September, when the court dismissed an application by its retirement fund to force the company to pay its statutory obligations. The pension fund at the time turned to court to try to force the post office to contribute to the workers’ pension fund. The Post Office admitted in that application that it was broke.

It said only 55 of its 1 416 branches were profitable during lockdown. Staff salaries cost R1.2 billion, nearly two thirds of its expenses, it said.