As the South African Post Office (SAPO) narrowly averted new strike action this week, a group of independent publishers are consider instituting a damages claim against the troubled state-owned entity. Glenda Nevill reports.
The threatened strike action by members of the Communications Workers Union (CWU) was stopped by a Labour Court interim interdict in favour of the parastatal. In a letter to customers, the SAPO said the union had notified it of its intention “to apply work-to-rule, to not work overtime and to stage a one-day rally in each province”. But the court ruled the union’s certificate of non-resolution – issued by the CCMA – invalid. It also said it needed more time to consider the submission.
In the meantime, a group of specialist publishers are meeting to consider whether or not to sue the Post Office. “It’s too early to talk about suing SAPO as we have not taken the matter to the greater number of publishers. This we plan to do in a few weeks’ time,” Rory Macnamara, publishing director of Interact Media, told The Media Online.
Macnamara said publishers had incurred “sizable” costs when they had to convert from postal delivery to hand-delivered street delivery during three-month long industrial action late last year. Advertisers are unhappy, resulting in a loss of income for publishers. “… the list goes on. The argument here is that we had no alternative because of the three years of strikes culminating with the last one which saw violence and damages, never mind burnt mail,” he said.
Macnamara said since the last, crippling strike publishers had “moved strongly to street delivery with percentages between 40 to 90% conversion being achieved depending on the area. The upside here is that the distributor is working with a number of publishers to expand their footprint but it has challenges and a sizable and positive start has been made”.
At the time, they submitted a complaint to Icasa. But he says there appears to be “confusion” between Icasa and the COO of SAPO “who claims he has never had our complaint officially – only read about in the media”.
But Icasa said it had submitted the complaint to the SAPO and they have had no response. Macnamara said the complaint is with Icasa’s complaints division and the publishers are awaiting a date for a hearing.
“It sounds fishy to me never mind infuriating,” said Macnamara.
Postal workers are demanding that casual workers be given permanent positions, that they receive a 15% pay rise and that reinstated employees receive a positive adjustment to their salaries.
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