Over 100 South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) employees in Pietermaritzburg downed tools on Monday over wage hike negotiations.
The employees, who are members of the Public Servants' Association (PSA), have been on strike for over a month. They are demanding a salary increase of up to 13% as well as a housing allowance, annual leave and safer working conditions.
SASSA met with other unions and agreed to give workers a 7% pay hike. This offer was rejected by PSA members who say they were not consulted.
On Monday, the group marched to SASSA's regional offices and handed over a memorandum listing their demands. Pearl Mthembu, SASSA regional executive manager, accepted the memorandum and promised to give it to Minister Susan Shabangu.
Hlengiwe Mbhele works at SASSA in Nongoma. She said, "We work under risky conditions. They are lying to the media and saying everything is well at SASSA. Nothing is well. We have raised the issue of safe working conditions. People are sick. Imagine serving a person with multi-drug-resistant TB."
"Everything has increased. Petrol is high. We can't provide for our families. We are paid peanuts," said Mbhele.
PSA member Zodwa Nene said, "They back paid us on Friday. That was the agreement with their unions. PSA was not consulted. We stand by the percent we demanded. SASSA must respect us."
Perfect Zulu, acting provincial manager of the PSA, said the union tabled their demands in February. "Ever since we started negotiations with SASSA, there has been no agreement. If SASSA does not meet the demands, the strike will continue. Employees will down tools until their grievances are attended to."
SASSA spokesperson Vusi Mahaye confirmed that workers were paid the agreed amount on Friday. "What is important is that the employees were paid. I'm not sure how much was given. Money was paid and they are refusing to take that offer."