Post Office Strike - Update
Casual workers win struggle for permanent jobs at the South African Post Office (SAPO)
On Friday 19 April, the South African Post Office agreed to employ over 200 casual workers on a permanent basis. The workers, from the Witspos depot in Johannesburg, went on strike on Tuesday 16 April, 2013, with the single demand that they be made permanent by SAPO. By Friday 19 SAPO caved in to the workers’ demand.
The strike was unprotected and organized entirely by the workers themselves, despite 2 trade unions organizing in SAPO. Workers rejected the involvement of either the South African Postal Workers Union (SAPWU) and the Cosatu-affiliated Communications Workers Union. At a mass meeting on Wednesday 17 April the workers decided to march to the Cosatu head office to object to what they regarded as the federation’s interference in their struggle. This was in response to Cosatu representatives meeting SAPO management without consulting the striking workers. Instead, a Casual Leadership Committee led the strike, and will meet management, alongside a similar committee for labour broker workers, on 25 and 26 April on the timelines for the conversion of workers’ status to permanent. This is in line with the post-Marikana strike wave, where the majority of strikes have been wildcat, and led by independent workers committees, in explicit rejection of trade union involvement.
The latest casual worker strike comes in the wake of a long struggle by labour broker and casual workers at SAPO, dating back to at least 2005, when the company was obliged to enter into an agreement to convert labour broker workers into permanent SAPO workers. But the CWU, which was temporarily deregistered by the department of labour in 2012 and still has this possibility hanging over it, had signed a very weak agreement. Together with CWU’s organizational weakness, SAPO simply ignored implementation of the 2005 agreement.
From July 2011 to May 2012 labour brokers workers again embarked on a series of unprotected strikes, this time rejecting the involvement of CWU in particular, and ultimately winning some victories at several Gauteng Witspos depots. In March 2013 hundreds of SAPO workers again embarked on a wildcat strike, leading to the dismissal of 588 workers.
The casual workers at Witspos Johannesburg depot must be saluted for their victorious struggle. However, workers’ problems at SAPO are not yet over. The company still employs a large number of casual and labour broker workers nationally. Its strategy is clearly to only give in to workers’ demands for permanent employment when workers are prepared to take action in support of this demand.
Download Related Document: Post Office Touching Base.pdf