SANDU to protest “salary gap”


The SA National Defence Union says the country’s under-paid soldiers are suffering in the current economic downturn and urgently need there salaries adjusted. To highlight their plight, the union has organised a march to the Union Buildings for tomorrow.

But the defence ministry believes the march is “irresponsible” because it might “compromise national security”.

Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Lindiwe Sisulu says in a statement she is dismayed “with the decision by SANDU to abandon the bargaining chamber and other formal platforms of the Department of Defence (DoD) and hold an unnecessary protest march…”

Sisulu added “that it is irresponsible and in breach of national security for any in the Defence family to rally people who are responsible for national security to an unnecessary protest march on issues that are being addressed by the Minister and other platforms in the DoD.”

The Times newspaper quotes SANDU national secretary Pikkie Greeff as saying the union wants to close the “salary gap” between its members and the South African Police Service.

“Soldiers often leave their loved ones at home and put their lives on the line for their country. Our members are part of the country`s poverty problems,” Greeff told the paper.

He says the union`s members were the worst-paid civil servants, with trainee soldiers [sic] earning R2300 a month, and entry-level soldiers getting a “dismal” R3800 per month — “less than what South Africans are paid for unschooled labour in certain sectors”.

“Yet we safeguard our Constitution and sovereignty.”

The defence ministry says Sisulu is committed to “addressing all challenges facing the working soldier and some of the key issues are on the verge of being finalised and implemented.”

In her budget vote speech the Minister stated that “like any other defence force around the world the SANDF depends on men and women who have chosen to serve their country and its citizens. We are very proud of these officers who have distinguished themselves in the course of their duties … The demand for a well trained, multi-skilled, disciplined and well equipped defence force as a critical lever of the developmental agenda of Government is a reality that cannot be left to chance.”

She added that “I want to assure the Defence Force staff that their conditions of service are a concern. We are seized with the matter and I would like to engage each one of them through the proper management structures to see how we can attend to these.We are acutely aware that the state of readiness of the SANDF depends primarily on the morale of our soldiers.”

“Having assessed our options, we are considering making a request for a separate dispensation for the Department of Defence that would allow us to creatively deal with our own needs and the specificities of our own unique security requirements”.

The Minister called on the Union to return immediately to the bargaining chamber and finalise all the discussions for the benefit of the soldiers.

The ministry did not define national security, a term many academics say is difficult to pin down.