4,700 South African Post Office jobs safe – for now

 ·24 Apr 2024

The South African Post Office (SAPO) has reached an agreement with unions to withdraw retrenchment notices, saving roughly 4,700 jobs at the struggling state entity—for at least 12 months.

Following consultation processes with the CCMA in March, the SAPO’s Business Rescue Practitioners (BRPs) began sending 4,700 retrenchment letters to staff who would lose their jobs.

This would’ve meant that 42% of the existing SAPO workforce was on the chopping block, with the Post Office left with 6,383 staff—down from 11,083.

However, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) said the Post Office and relevant unions signed an agreement with the employer to put this on hold.

The agreement also includes a pact to implement a “progressive turnaround plan, not based upon culling staff.”

As part of the plan, the government’s Unemployment Insurance Fund’s Temporary Employment Relief Scheme (TERS) will help to pay employees for the next 12 months.

According to the BRPs, the bargaining unit employees will have 75% of their salaries paid by the TERS relief scheme and 25% of their salaries paid by the Post Office.

The BRPs added that, should the application be successful and the relief funding be granted, the funds can only be applied to currently employed employees and not those who have received retrenchment notices.

“Therefore, retrenchment letters sent to employees in the bargaining unit in Level C or below employment category only are consequently withdrawn.

“Employees serving their notice period at home have been requested to remain at home until further notice.

“However, should operational requirements dictate that additional labour is required to deal with exceptions, staff will be legally required to assist when called upon by management.,” they said in a statement.

The application does not impact all retrenched workers in higher employment categories. Those employees who have received retrenchment letters, remain retrenched and are still at liberty to apply for the new employment roles that have been advertised at the Post Office should their skills set and experience suit the job description.

Cosatu added that should TERS relief be provided for a specified period, the parties will endeavour to place employees in positions that may become available as and when the business recovers.

However, the pact noted that if the TERS application is not successful, parties will revert to their current positions.

The trade union stressed that the key concurrent interventions to ensure this takes place include the R3.8 billion financial support from the Treasury to settle SAPO debts and the full operationalisation of the Postbank now that the Postbank Amendment Act has been enacted.

The importance of the R3.8 billion was also noted by Business rescue practitioner Anoosh Rooplal, who said that most of the money needed to pay out the retrenchment packages over the next eight months will be sourced from the R2.4 billion bailout received last year.

However, the conclusion of the retrenchment payments was dependent on receiving the R3.8 billion bailout from the SAPO.

This additional funding, however, was not granted by the National Treasury, and Rooplal noted the plan to rescue the business would be at risk without it.

During a parliamentary portfolio committee meeting, Deputy Communication Minister Mohlopi Mapulane stated that discussions between his department and the Treasury were ongoing to address the matter.

Cosaru further added Parliament’s pending adoption of the Post Office Amendment Bill would allow SAPO to enter the lucrative courier business and position itself as a multi-service, one-stop site for a variety of government services for the public.

“It is fundamental that governments at all levels utilise SAPO and the Postbank as their postal and banking service provider, injecting invaluable liquidity, which will ensure the viability of jobs,” it said.

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