All Mpumalanga nature reserves closed over labour disputes

The Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency has had to close its nature reserves throughout the province because of a strike led by Nehawu

09 April 2021 - 06:00
By Kgaugelo Masweneng
The harm caused by the Covid-19 pandemic was slowly beginning to be addressed in Mpumalanga parks when the strike was called, resulting in the closure of all of the province's parks, said Johannes Nobunga, CEO of the Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency. File photo
Image: NADINE DREYER The harm caused by the Covid-19 pandemic was slowly beginning to be addressed in Mpumalanga parks when the strike was called, resulting in the closure of all of the province's parks, said Johannes Nobunga, CEO of the Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency. File photo

The Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency (MTPA) has halted all its operations because of ongoing labour dispute protests.

The agency has had to close its nature reserves throughout the province after the strike, led by Nehawu, over the past two days.

“We have tried through [the] labour management forum to engage the leadership of Nehawu on their concerns, however they have continued to refuse to engage to find an amicable solution. The engagement would allow both parties to reach a consensus and further ensure that we urgently resume operations at all our offices and nature reserves.

“The negative impact caused by the Covid-19 pandemic was slowly beginning to be addressed and this has the unfortunate negative effect to the positive development we were beginning to notice,” said Johannes Nobunga, CEO of the agency.

He said the reopening of their nature reserves was a priority as it would afford tourists an opportunity to continue with their planned trips.

This follows the dispute over the placement of employees into the new organigram, particularly employees acting in manager positions.

“They demand that these be placed in the acting positions instead of their normal positions. They also want the filling of the recently advertised senior management positions to be halted in favour of the placement.

“The management of the MTPA stands firm that these senior management positions are critical and will afford all staff members, even those in acting capacity, a fair opportunity to apply and be absorbed permanently within the new organigram,” he added.

He said the agency had written to the Nehawu provincial office to request them to “withdraw this illegal strike and allow staff members to come to work”.

He said if there was no response “we will be forced to interdict the illegal action. We do not want to force this on our employees, however we will be left with no option if this matter is not resolved as a matter of urgency. We remain ready to engage further with Nehawu to reach an agreement,” said Nobunga.

He apologised to those who will be inconvenienced.

Nehawu's Welcome Mnisi confirmed the strike.

“We started last week. We are going to meet the MEC of finance. We’re looking for intervention to resolve the issues. We won’t rest until the issues are resolved,” said Mnisi.

He said the union was fighting MTPA’s failure to resolve salary disparities.

“Our members who are field rangers were forced to be redeployed to Mthethomushana Game Reserve from other camps and reserves without considering the working environment.

“The employer threatened to charge our members for not agreeing to work in an environment that is not conducive. The redeployment of the field ranger outside the scope of their workplace is tantamount to the change of conditions of work,” he said.

Members are demanding that the long-service award should extend from five to 30 years, with a monetary value ranging from R2,500 to R15,000.

“Some of our members are subjected to asbestos houses in the camps. It is worrisome that in this era there is an employer that is subjecting employees to asbestos houses,” Mnisi said.

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