POPCRU on recent developments within the Criminal Justice Cluster

The Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (POPCRU) has noted with concern recent but recurring incidents that are aimed at creating unnecessary confusion among workers within the criminal justice cluster by way of peddling concerted lies and misinformation. Should this not be adequately addressed, it may lead to further division and mistrust with the aim of dividing, and therefore neutralising the bargaining power of trade unionism within and beyond the public sector.

We want to start by stating our full knowledge of the conditions under which members within the South African Police Service, Correctional Services and Traffic work. Since our formation, we have never forsaken the plight of these members as it is claimed out there, and we will never desert them despite what the critics are preaching.

For us, union democracy speaks to the governance of trade unions in terms of the quality of all procedures in ensuring we all take the collective responsibility in ensuring that at all leadership levels, we represent the interests of our members. This we continue to do through open publications, newsletters, website publishing all members’ views, including those critical of representatives or union policy, and our union always encourages open and free debate and discussion of issues.

Regular meetings at all levels are announced ahead of time, at a time and place convenient to members with an agenda circulated in advance. This affords members an opportunity to interact with the union activities, where they are encouraged to speak, make proposals, vote and ask questions. This is very important as it ensures that all members actively participate in the decision-making process which has for years guided us as a worker-led union.

We have also been consistent in the realisation that education remains a pinnacle for our members, and we continue providing training opportunities to those who deal with member-representation [para-legals & shop stewards] and organising, including how to participate effectively in the union and how to organise on the job.

In all these efforts, we also popularise and promote union consciousness and values in the workplace. We want to address the issues raised in the public space about the concluded agreements within the Safety and Security Sectoral Bargaining Council [SSSBC] and elaborate our angle and position in this regard.

  • Concluded Agreements

Three collective agreements were concluded in the SSSBC covering the following areas for improvement of conditions of service for the members:

  1. Agreement 1/2018 dealt with Special Dispensation for Pilots employed in the South African Police Service;
  2. Agreement 2/2018 dealing with Grade Progression. The agreement is aimed at giving special dispensation for grade progression of Constables to Sergeants, Sergeants to Warrant Officers and Warrant Officers Band 1 to Band 2. This agreement will be implemented in phases for the financial years 2018/20 to 2022/2023; and
  3. Agreement 3/2018 speaks to the Job Evaluation and Grading of Entry Level Posts. The Job Grading and Evaluation process was executed already and the outcome thereof will be implemented in phases for the financial years 2018/2019 to 2020/2021. This process was never undertaken in the history of SAPS. The implementation of this agreement in a phase-in approach covers the entire workforce in so far as Job Grading is concerned.

The negotiations in the SSSBC involved all parties to the council, namely, SAPS as employer, admitted labour organisations, POPCRU and SAPU. Upon conclusion of the negotiations, all parties agreed to the outcome thereof. It is however, unfortunate and deceptive that SAPU, in their opportunistic attempt to cause confusion to members and mislead the whole nation,went to the media [outcome of a process which they fully participated and agreed to everything in the bargaining council]. Funny enough, it was only when the agreements were implemented that they started making all forms of uncalled for allegations.

To the members, we want to assure them that this agreement is definitely going to benefit them. As explained earlier on, it is a phase-in approach and thus members will obviously, not benefit at the same time – but within three financial years.

It is not our business and priority to talk about SAPU, we are however forced into this terrain because of their deliberate misinformation and deception. It has a history of disowning or not signing agreements in which it was part of negotiating. SAPU never signed the agreement which talks to the delinking of housing allowance from the spouses that are working in government. It did not sign resolution 1 of 2018 which talks to the enhancement of member benefits in GEMS regarding members on salary levels 1 to 5. Over and above, they did not sign the very agreement which talks to the enhancement of grade progression and yet, they formed part of its complete shaping.

  • Peddling of Misinformation

There has been a circulating notion that POPCRU does not care about employed in terms of Public Service Act within the SAPS. This notion, just like many others, is coordinated by our detractors who have no factual basis to make these claims, and work tirelessly from deep dark corners in asserting this misinformation.

It was POPCRU which signed a whole lot of agreements starting from agreement 2 of 2011 when we signed for the incorporation of Public Service Act employees to the SAPS employees. It is unfortunate that when this agreement was about to be implemented to benefit members, just like SAPU’s disingenuous actions, Solidarity [which does not have organisational rights in SAPS] took that agreement to court. To deal with this impasse, we have since said that there should be a task team established within the SSSBC to deal with the work of ensuring that we realise the incorporation of the Public Service Act employees to the SAPS Act.

Our members marched in 2013 and 2018 respectively, with demands for these implementations. The outcome of that action was the elevation of Public Service Act members. It was however, not fully implemented – hence the developments in the SSSBC as explained above. We signed agreement 4 of 2017 which deals with members at the lowest levels within the SAPS, specifically focused on cleaners, security, dog breeders, equestrians, food aid services and all other categories that had been ignored [again SAPU did not sign it]. It is now the Department of Public Service and Administration which must move with speed in ensuring that the regarding of those particular categories are realised.

We tabled a position paper this year in February saying it cannot be correct that members are being told they have reached a ceiling, and we are calling for a grade progression of all those members to be placed in salary level 7, and those who are on salary level 8 need to be incorporated into the SAPS so they realise their upward mobility.

We also dealt with the security guards, tabling a position paper in the SSSBC for engagement. As such, a task team was established and dispatched to KwaZulu Natal, Eastern Cape and Gauteng to ascertain and listen to members’ concerns. Thus far, a report has been submitted to the SSSBC to take with this matter to finality.

In 2018, SAPU took members of 10111 to a strike which ended up in dismal failure, resulting in these members facing charges and undergoing disciplinary hearings. SAPU is now nowhere to be found in assisting these members who are currently owing the department about 3 to 6 months’ worth of salaries; a total value which they must pay back on their own. We are hard at work in ensuring that these members are incorporated in the SAPS fold.

  • Action in DCS

Having marched to all departments in the past year of 2018 in raising challenges faced by our members across the country, most specifically the issues around uniforms, the full implementation of the Occupation Specific Dispensation and the backdated overtime and other matters related to working conditions, POPCRU feels undermined by the Department of Correctional Services in that we even had to postpone our CEC meeting to seriously attend to matter of health and safety affecting our members.

Whilst we take courage in the fact that the courts have vindicated us by instructing the Department of Labour to finally release the judgement on the safety of the DCS head office within 10 days as of the 13th of March 2019, we are still appalled by the non-conforming conduct the DCS has displayed in finalising all outstanding matters related to workers’ conditions of service.

POPCRU is hereby forced to take drastic action in ensuring that the working conditions and other pressing issues are addressed. And we call on members to ready for such action.

It is also important that we remain focused and vigilant in avoid being distracted by those who seek to join the bandwagon by profiling themselves as problem-solvers to the challenges faced in the DCS all of the sudden. We need substantial change in the manner the DCS was run all along.

The true price of outsourcing government functions, as we had cautioned the DCS back then, a process which led to the dismissals of over 500 of our members, has generally weakened our social infrastructure and deepened economic inequality. When officials turn to private interests to serve the public, hidden costs eventually surface in the form of economic decline, mismanagement and a poorer quality of services delivered. The benefits of this kind of ‘private-public partnerships’ largely accumulate contractors’ benefits while communities bear the cost of insufficient oversight and limited public control over the use of taxpayer resources, and this has been the case within our correctional centres.

It is therefore very important that decisions into future operations of the DCS aren’t done in isolation from stakeholders.

We are well aware about Cope’s political desperation, in its quest to try and revive their carcass; it is busy in Correctional Services causing confusion to members. There is nothing wrong to campaign for votes by political parties, it is however, wrong and deceitful to go into an institution such as correctional services and mislead members. Members must be vigilant and guard against such fraught and anxious attempts out of desperation and extreme anxiety by Cope.

  • Traffic

POPCRU still maintains its position of compliance with the constitutional provision as well as the Polokwane’s 2007 resolution that there must be one police department in the country under the South African Police Service National Commissioner.

POPCRU also cautions the Road Traffic Management Agency (RTMC) that they must stop the confusion that they are bringing as consultations in provinces before the Traffic Law Review Committee has finalised its work as instructed by the then Minister of Transport Dipuo Peters.

POPCRU is calling on all MECs to release all provincial traffic police to be nationalised. We will fight this until all traffic members are a national component.

  • Upcoming 9th POPCRU National Congress

POPCRU will be holding its 9th National Congress and 30th Anniversary celebrations at the end of the year from the 5th to the 11th of November 2019 in Durban.

For us, these events represent a huge milestone in the transformation of the criminal justice cluster, and a vigorous journey in our relentless fight in attaining civil rights for both workers and the public in general.

Throughout the 30 years of our existence, POPCRU has faced many battles, but persevered to a point that up to this day remains the biggest union within the criminal justice cluster.

We will be tabling our discussion documents in the coming months, and wish to create public interest and dialogue which will better improve relations with our communities and stakeholders in prioritising peace and stability within our borders.

Our Local Congresses have already started in seeking mandates on improving our standing in the implementation of consolidated programs that we will be focused on in the coming years, and we therefore hope the media and communities can join us in pondering on debates that will best feed into our common concerns of making our environment safe.

Issued by POPCRU on 17/03/2019