South African Post Office (Sapo) workers marched in Cape Town on Thursday to demand improvements in the state-owned entity and to make it clear they were “gatvol” with their working conditions.
Around 200 people, aligned with the Communication Workers’ Union, took part in the march to the Grand Parade as part of a nationwide strike.
Provincial CWU chairperson Riedewaan Vermeuelen told News24 that staff had been waiting for salary increases for two years. Some had been casual workers for 22 years, without benefits.
“Workers must buy their own toilet paper. The post offices are filthy. They don’t have envelopes or stamps and there is no security for access control, so people can just walk in or out,” he said.
“The postmen don’t have bicycles to deliver the mail and they have to walk. Those who do have bicycles must use their own money to repair them.”
In a memorandum handed to a provincial post office manager, workers said they wanted Sapo to be bailed out and for government to reinstate its subsidy. The union demanded a response within seven days.
‘We are sick and tired of this nonsense’
Postman Jan Kamfer, 56, from Eerste River, told News24 his workload was unbearable at times.
“When a guy gets off sick, you must do three or five days’ work in one day. We as workers are sick and tired of this nonsense.”
His colleague Donovan Arends, 45, said he had been a casual worker for 16 years.
“I don’t have a pension. Nothing. They keep on making us promises that they are going to make us permanent.”
He found it difficult to support his wife and four children in Hanover Park. Borrowing money was the only way he could keep afloat, which meant he was always in debt.
Cosatu regional secretary Tony Ehrenreich told workers that the union federation was with them.
“We must tell our government that we are tired of a government that is not responding to the workers. We are tired of a government that seems to want to privatise the post office so that a few people can enrich themselves,” he said to cheers.
Postal services crippled
Sapo has suffered years of maladministration. It recorded a R1.5bn loss in 2015.
A months-long strike in 2014 crippled postal services. Earlier this year, Public Protector Thuli Madonsela found Sapo’s 2010 acquisition of a 10-year, R161m office lease irregular.
In January, government hired Mark Barnes – the former CEO of private equity firm Brait – as Sapo’s new chief executive officer in a bid to improve the flagging company.
After government gave Sapo a R650m cash injection earlier this year, Barnes told Fin24 the entity was close to raising R2.7bn from banks.
The CWU’s Vermeulen remained sceptical. “The CEO can’t say anything about our back pay or casuals.”