SA Post Office feels financial squeeze

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The SA Post Office remained a place of mayhem this week as the strike continued and it emerged that some of its workers did not get paid this month’s salaries.

Post Office spokesperson Johan Kruger said there was a system error and payments were late by only 12 hours.

But a Post Office employee said this was not true and workers were struggling to get answers out of branch managers.

The current strike started two weeks ago after a dispute about the process of converting workers from casual to permanent employment. But Post Office employees have been participating in various unprotected strikes since January.

The Post Office’s flexible labour strategy to convert 7 945 casual workers into permanent employees was adopted last year.

Chief operating officer Mlu Mathonsi said: “The aim of the flexible labour strategy has always been to advance the part-time employees to more permanent positions with full benefits. However, a staggered approach had to be adopted, given the difficult financial position the company is in.”

The Post Office has adopted a phased system where casual workers were offered permanent part-time positions.

Mathonsi said the disputes with the unions were around agreements that casual workers would be employed in entry-level positions with limited benefits.

“This was the only way the Post Office could permanently employ the large number of casual workers,” he said.

Communications Workers’ Union spokesperson Mantankana Mothapo said the Post Office had pushed workers too far.

“There are employees who have been there for 10 to 15 years who are casual workers,” he said.

According to the Post Office, more than 2 000 casual employees have been given permanent contracts since last year.

It is no secret that the Post Office has been in dire financial straits. Management has described the situation as a crisis.

Internal emails circulated last week, addressed to Mike Faasen, the general manager for retirements, tax and treasury, accused the Post Office of withdrawing R401 million from the pension fund between April and August.

A recent report in The Star newspaper said a draft audit report by Deloitte alleged it had used the employees’ pension fund to pay off an overdraft of R250 million.

According to the emails, employees are concerned that surplus funds from the pension fund are being mismanaged. Surplus funds accumulate when there are unclaimed retirement benefits due to resignation or death.

A legislative change in 2001 required all pension funds to distribute surpluses to members.

Faasen, however, dismissed the allegations, saying the Post Office withdrew the money from its own resources.

The Deloitte report also said the Post Office had incurred a R361 million loss and racked up R1.2 billion in irregular expenditure, including the irregular award of tenders. The report said it spent R184 million on consultants and R114 million on travel.

In the previous financial year, strikes cost the Post Office R100 million, so more losses can be expected when financial results are announced.

Kruger said the Post Office’s audit committee would meet next week, after which the company’s annual report would be available. It has until tomorrow to release its results.

“All we want is competent management because the current management is collapsing the Post Office,” Mothapo said.

Source: City Press

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