Why Province staff are threatening to strike

Fri, 22 Dec 2017 09:44

LISTEN as Piet Heymans, spokesperson of the trade union Sport Employers Unite, explains why Western Province staff may go on strike.

It emerged this week that staff at Newlands had already boycotted the union's year-end function, as a display of their unhappiness with a decision to cut 2018 increases and year-end bonuses.

The paw paw hit the proverbial fan at the troubled union when WP's remuneration committee recommended that all employees get a six percent increase and a full 13th cheque for all.

It was put before the executive committee for approval and it was then decided that staff categorised in the grade four to seven salary tiers will receive an annual bonus of 100 percent and a salary increase of six percent, but the middle and senior executives in grade one to three salary tiers have had their bonuses cut to 50 percent with the payment postponed until March next year.

This caused great upheaval.

"It is like any employer-employee situation, differences occur," Heymans told rugby365.

"In this case, the employees don't know how this decision was made [to cancel some increases and cut the bonuses] and what the rationale was behind it," he added.

There is no doubt the decision to not accept the committee's recommendation resulted in a lot of unhappiness.

"The level of unhappiness was so high that the personnel boycotted the year-end function," Heymans told rugby365, adding: "Even those who did get increases supported their colleagues in this [boycott]."

The workers' spokesman said they will sit down with the WP Rugby Union executive early in January - firstly for them to explain why they did not accept the remuneration committee's recommendation and then to reach an agreement and sign off the agreement.

Heymans said it is important to get any agreement in writing.

"My experience, in the past, was that there are often promises in these discussions and then when it comes to paying there are sometimes suggestions that it was a misunderstanding and the money is not forthcoming.

"We have to make sure any agreement is in writing."

He said the staff have not ruled out industrial action if the WPRU executive does not want to talk.

"We will declare a dispute, go to mediation or arbitration and as a very last resort they can revert to labour action - which could include a go-slow or full strike action.

"However, that will be a very last resort."

The union, currently embroiled in a racial dispute between an executive member and another official, is also in deep financial trouble - despite denials by WPRU President Thelo Wakefield.

The union's business arm - WP Rugby (Pty) Ltd - was forced into liquidation last after facing a multi-million rand claim from sports marketing company Aerios.

Aerios has contested the liquidation process and that is currently under investigation - with the chief liquidator already having been removed from the process.

It has also been reported that the union is in the process of selling Newlands stadium to increase its cash flow.

By Jan de Koning
@King365ed
@rugby365com