The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) notes the response through Fin24 by the Road Accident Fund (RAF) CEO Dr Eugene Watson, on the strike action by our members at the RAF.
Like all good capitalists and neo-liberalists Dr Watson’s first port of call is to question the numbers of our members taking part in the strike as well as those demonstrating across the country.
This is a time honoured tactic used by all exploiters of labour to try and delegitimize and invalidate the lived experiences of the working class. As NUMSA we will march against any exploitation of our members, regardless of whether it is one worker or a thousand workers.
Instead, what the CEO of the RAF should concern himself with is to deal directly with the legitimate issues raised by our members. His continued inability to deal decisively with a myriad of issues has resulted in a chaotic organisation, which is failing to fulfil its constitutional mandate by not paying hundreds of vulnerable South Africans who have been affected by our high road accident rate.
In fact, as NUMSA we would not be surprised if the RAF is the next crisis that will engulf our woeful state, which itself seems to lurch from crisis to crisis. The situation at the RAF is serious and requires urgent attention from all stakeholders particularly the minister of transport, the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee of Transport and the public.
NUMSA will ensure that the RAF CEO and board are held to account. Here are a few of our reasons why the situation at the RAF is dire:
1. Threat to Private and Confidential Information of Claimants
Dr Watson can scarcely celebrate audit outcomes when sheriffs of the court routinely attach computers, desks, chairs, and phones at the headquarters of the RAF so that employees cannot actually do their work! It is a basic function of management to pay suppliers timeously and yet the RAF under the guidance of Dr Watson, can’t even do this – what a truly pathetic state of affairs! Dr Watson and the senior management team should be fired for their incompetence and the board should be investigated for failing in its fiduciary duties.
Furthermore, every time computers are attached and removed, Dr Watson is putting the privacy and confidentiality of millions of citizens at risk. The information contained in the computers is critical. It often contains a claimant’s personal medical history. The RAF has a legal duty to act responsibly and protect this information, in terms of the Protection of Personal Information Act. If that confidential information falls into the wrong hands as a result of the RAF’s ineptitude, Dr Watson is responsible. This is an issue that warrants an urgent investigation.
It further proves what was recently revealed at the Constitutional Court during the SASSA matter hearings, that the ANC government is fast and loose with confidential information, and in fact, will sell it to the highest bidder at the first opportunity.
2. Contributes to Inequality with Income Gap
The RAF is an organisation where a large number of employees take home less than R5000 after deductions, while its CEO earns R5 million per annum. Their livelihood is characterised by indebtedness brought on by poverty wages. Workers must survive on such meagre earnings and support their families.
When they raise their voices about their suffering Dr Watson attacks them and claims their demands are unreasonable. Like all Capitalist ‘Fat Cats’ Dr Watson benefits from the exploitation and suffering of workers.
His 5 million rand annual salary ensures that he is insulated from the day to day suffering of ordinary workers. From his gilded ivory tower, with all the luxury trappings that come with an income of millions of rand, he has the nerve to describe our demands for a living wage and a dignified standard of living as unreasonable – shame on him!
3. Formal Bargaining arbitrarily suspended
Dr Watson has attacked NUMSA for not engaging in a formal bargaining process. The truth is that RAF under the direction of Dr Watson arbitrarily suspended the bargaining council without consulting workers! This is the forum the RAF is supposed to be using to engage workers, but it is refusing to utilise it.
The RAF is infringing on our constitutionally protected right to organise. The RAF under the leadership of Dr Watson is effectively pissing on the graves of workers who died fighting for the right to organise and be heard.
4. Barbed Wire and Other dived and rule tactics against workers
During the Marikana massacre of 2012, Judge Ian Farlam of the commission bemoaned the use of barbed wire by SAPS. Barbed wire was used as a way to corral and trap mine workers into an enclosed space, making it easier for police to kill them off systematically. In fact, Farlam believes this practice was responsible for the mass murder witnessed on that day.
Dr Watson and his capitalist cronies use similar tactics. They are threatening workers with a ‘No work, no pay’ policy and are warning workers that no overtime will be granted for going on strike. This is a direct threat to our members who are raising legitimate concerns and are exercising their constitutionally guaranteed right to organise. It seeks to divide our members and bully them into silence.
5. On Salary Scales and the CEO’s duplicity
Dr Watson is being completely duplicitous on the issue of salary scales. Workers are simply demanding that the investigation conducted by auditing firm Deloitte into the salary scales must be implemented.
Workers have raised issues around unjustified salary gaps between workers at the same level, who do the same work, but are not remunerated equally. Dr Watson must explain why he won’t implement the recommendations of the Deloitte report.
RAF may be guilty of violating the Protection of Personal Information Act
As NUMSA we are demanding accountability, transparency, good governance and fair labour practices. We hope that the minister of Transport Dipuo Peters takes the memorandum which we sent to her department seriously. The RAF is already in the midst of a crisis. Hundreds of ordinary South Africans are unable to receive their RAF pay outs because the RAF is in a state of complete disarray.
We require the department of Transport to intervene, as the board of the RAF is failing in its oversight and fiduciary duties. We hope Peters won’t make the same mistake as her cabinet colleague, Bathabile Dlamini and wait until there is a near or total collapse of the system before she institutes action.
NUMSA will request that Public Protector investigate RAF
Our attempts to hold Dr Watson and the board of RAF accountable are not just limited to the strike action. We will be writing to the Speaker of Parliament and the Portfolio Committee of Transport to ask them to investigate whether the confidential information of claimants has been handled properly, and whether the RAF has violated the Protection of Personal Information Act, as a consequence of the shambolic state of the organisation. We also intend to write to the Public Protector for her to conduct the same investigation.
NUMSA members are steadfast in their resolve. We will strike until our demands are met. We have given minister Peters until Friday the 24th of March to engage meaningfully with our demands. We are emboldened by hundreds of our members who displayed great courage and took to the streets to register their grievance.
Furthermore, we call on all workers, whether you are a member of a trade union or not, to join us in this legally protected strike.
We must be organised or we will starve!
Issued by Irvin Jim
NUMSA General Secretary