Sandu (SA National Defence Union), the country’s largest military trade union, has come out strongly against recommendations made by the Defence Force Service Commission (DFSC) on the question of salary adjustments, particularly as regards possible delinking ranks and salaries.
National secretary Pikkie Greeff speaks ominously of courts and legal action while calling the DFSC recommendation “unfair and unequal to thousands of SA National Defence Force (SANDF) members trapped in the cycle of pay stagnation between the fourth and 14th year in their particular rank”.
He points out there are thousands of SANDF members trapped in their rank pay scales for anything between five and 25 years, due to non-promotion.
“Sandu’s demand has always been for rank and pay to be delinked,” he said, adding it was first raised 12 years ago with Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Defence, which rejected it.
“Additionally, the Department of Defence steadfastly refused to concede and it then morphed into one of the reasons for the 2009 protest march at the Union Buildings.”
Greeff added Sandu had been “inundated with furious reaction by rank and file SANDF members who have been disregarded by the DFSC and severely demoralised by its unfair conduct,” he said, adding it was ironic the DFSC was “originally created in an attempt to curb dissatisfaction with pay and conditions of service”.
According to him the DFSC now stands accused of being a puppet of the Department of Defence “constrained by its master into contriving badly constructed, so-called solutions to the serious pay question of soldiers while ignoring their constitutional rights to representation”.
He maintains the only achievement of the DFSC’s “reckless behaviour” has been to “raise the collective wrath of ordinary soldiers, impeding effective functioning of the SANDF through demoralisation”.
Soldiers generally are still worse off in the way their pay scales versus rank operate in comparison with the rest of the Public Service, particularly the SA Police Service.
Greeff said Sandu will direct its lawyers to demand an undertaking from the DFSC that the military trade union will be engaged when discussions about a new SANDF pay dispensation commence. This is apparently expected within the next two years.
In a notice in the Government Gazette dated 23 June 2017, the DFSC recommended increasing salaries (but not ranks) of 8 900 affected personnel based on years of completed service and good performance. “SANDF members on any rank who have completed 15 years of continuous service in a particular rank, who have obtained at least a satisfactory rating in their most recent performance assessments, shall progress to the next salary grading,” the DFSC said. “The implementation of this model will not constitute a promotion, members will still retain their ranks and only the salary will be changed.”
Now that the DFSC has made its recommendations, it is up to Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, in consultation with the Minister of Finance, to take the matter further.