South Africa’s largest military trade union wants government in the form of its Defence and Military Veterans Minister to pay R24 million to just on 200 soldiers who publicly showed displeasure about salaries and work conditions 12 years ago.
The march on the Union Buildings in Pretoria by soldiers and other military personnel belonging to the SA National Defence Union (Sandu) in August 2009 shocked many and drew criticism from then Defence and Military Veterans Minister Lindiwe Sisulu. Indications are labour action in the form of picketing by soldiers and other uniformed national defence force personnel could again be seen if salary increases are not implemented across the public service this year.
In a combined summons to Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula and the State Attorney, the military trade union’s legal representatives, relying almost exclusively on South Africa’s labour laws, seek a multi-million Rand compensation pay-out for 192 SANDF personnel.
The summons centres on the suspension from duties of those named after the August 2009 march. It maintains the 192 defendants were unfairly treated in that they were excluded from any number of courses which could have led to promotion and were generally treated unfairly “in accordance with Constitutional principles” as regards fair labour practices and were further unfairly discriminated against. Other claims in the summons include not being considered for continental or internal deployments, not being paid bonuses and allowances, not considered for salary increases and prevented or limited from utilising living quarters “normally made available to them”.
Sandu maintains these and other issues are in breach of the national defence force employment agreement or that government “breached the legal duty it owed to ensure fair labour practices and/or fair administrative action”.
Actions against Sandu members are seen as a breach of contract and their Constitutional rights being discriminatory and “for no sound rationale as contemplated in the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act (PEPUDA)”.
The trade union members named also, according to the summons, suffered “damages in their personal capacity”, loss of earnings, emotional shock and trauma, post-traumatic anxiety and depression, defamation and received hospital and medical treatment.
The R24 million claimed by Sandu is made of up R6 million for non-payment of annual increases, allowances, staff accommodation benefits and promotion increases; R12 million for future loss of income and either none or delayed promotions; and a further R6 million for infringements of the right to fair labour practices.
At the time of publishing Sandu was awaiting response from the State Attorney and/or the Defence Ministry’s legal representatives.