Water and sanitation strike to end - as MPs endorse commission of inquiry
The embattled Water and Sanitation Department will be subject to a commission of inquiry‚ with officials to face consequences for any negative findings‚ it was announced today‚ even as the department announced that a deal was struck to end a worker strike.
The biggest public sector union in the country‚ the National Education‚ Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu)‚ late last week announced it would embark on an indefinite strike at Department of Water and Sanitation offices and facilities nationwide. It said the strike was over corruption‚ maladministration and unfavourable working conditions.
The union’s demands included that the department cease using contractors in its projects since they were allegedly the gateway to “corruption and looting” in the department.
Nehawu laid the blame for the alleged criminal activities at the department on its former minister‚ Nomvula Mokonyane‚ who was moved to the communications department last month. Today‚ Wednesday‚ the department said that it had reached an agreement with Nehawu to end a three-day strike.
"The parties agreed on new and improved conditions of employment for construction workers and the conditions will be reviewed every two years‚" the department said‚ adding it would continue to engage all unions in its efforts to ensure a harmonious relationship with labour.
In parliament today‚ meanwhile‚ a joint committee of the Portfolio Committee on Water and Sanitation and the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) said in a statement they had agreed to a joint commission of inquiry of both the Portfolio Committee on Water and Sanitation and Scopa into the functioning of the department.
"It has been agreed that a process of law enforcement must work in parallel with the inquiry where there are any illegal transgressions.
". . . There is also agreement to set clear time-frames for the process of the inquiry‚ so that there is effective consequence management after this process."
Nehawu said its strike action started on March 8 in all 53 workplaces of the department after failed protracted negotiations with the department that lasted more than 12 months.
Confirming members would return to work‚ the department had agreed their members would not be docked any pay for the days they were on strike.
The terms of the settlement deal included agreements to pay outstanding bonuses‚ implementation of new conditions of employment for construction employees‚ a move towards insourcing and setting deadlines for improved working conditions.
The national union has also written formally to the chairperson of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts [Scopa]‚ Themba Godi‚ over "the corruption and maladministration that has engulfed the department".
"We are prepared to share all information we have with the committee with the view of exposing those who have nearly bankrupted the department . . .
"Both corruption and maladministration has led to the department depleting funds meant to undertake its core functions. This is a battle‚ we are not willing to lose and we shall pursue until the bitter end. As Nehawu‚ we are determined to see those responsible for nearly collapsing the department facing punitive measures."