PRETORIA, June 6 – A crowd of 10111 emergency call centre workers brought traffic to a standstill in Pretoria central on Tuesday, as they demanded better salaries and improved working conditions, threatening to shut down the police’s emergency call centre if their demands were not met.
“The 10111 employees would like to present this memorandum of demands to the honourable Minister of Police Fikile Mbalula, expressing our deepest frustration at the slow pace and the deliberate delaying tactics to implement the processes that will improve the terms and conditions of our employment,” Bethuel Nkuna, a representative of the 10111 employees said as he read out a memorandum.
He said the working conditions of the emergency call centre were distinctly poor, compared to other government service call centres.
“As a result, a joint task team was established in February 2013 and it completed its work in April 2016. This task team eventually recommended that the employer commissions a job evaluation exercise … to help determine the appropriate pay packages for 10111 employees. We demand the speedy implementation of that internal report that was completed by October 2016,” Nkuna said.
“10111 workers are demotivated because they are underpaid. They are overworked, and they experience dangerous stress levels because of these working conditions. We demand a swift process to implement the outcome of the report. This should be treated with extreme urgency.”
Nkuna said instead of addressing the impasse with the disgruntled employees, it had been established that the police department was now “unilaterally” deploying trained police officers to man the highly critical call centres.
The memorandum called on South African Police Service members to decline manning the call centres. Failure to resolve the impasse would result in a total shutdown of the 10111 service, the workers warned.
“We call for solidarity from police officials, to decline this divide and rule strategy from the SAPS. We will ultimately call for solidarity from the general public. Our mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters – if this challenge is not dealt with swiftly and accordingly, we will close down 10111 across the country, for seven days. We demand a fixed timeframe for engagement with management and a timeframe for the full implementation of the recommendations,” Nkuna added.
“Demotivated employees are a recipe for compromised service delivery. 10111 employees are the backbone of a swift response in crime conditions. The SAPS can ill afford to have a demotivated and a going-slow workforce.”
Nkuna said other 10111 employees in other provinces were also marching on Tuesday to the provincial police offices. Mbalula was given 14 days to revert to the workers.
The South African Federation of Trade Unions, led by general-secretary Zwelinzima Vavi also joined the protest. Vavi said Mbalula must ensure that workers’ demands were met.
“A deal is a deal. An agreement signed by a former police commissioner Riah Phiyega was signed on behalf of the police. That agreement must be respected and it must be implemented. That agreement says categorically, all of you [10111 workers] are wrongly graded. You are currently at level five but you need to be at level seven. Riah Phiyega said that through the report she commissioned. We agree with Phiyega and her report,” said Vavi to cheers from the crowd.
Senior officials from Mbalula’s office received the memorandum.
The South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) has said it supports Tuesday’s march by 10111 emergency call centre workers to the police minister’s office in Pretoria in support of demands for better salaries.
In a statement, Saftu said the 10111 call centre staff wanted to be paid on par with call centre operators in other spheres of government.
Saftu said back in 2013, the 10111 staff met the then national police commissioner Riah Phiyega and the then Gauteng provincial police chief Lesetja Mothiba – who has now been appointed interim acting national police commissioner – to address members’ concerns regarding their salary level at the police call centre “which is not on the same level as other government call centres, despite being the busiest emergency call centre with a with a high work load than the other government call centres”.
According to Saftu, a task team was formed to benchmark 10111 staff salaries against other government call centres, including Home Affairs, Sassa, Sars, Crime stop and Presidential hotline call centres.
“It was completed on 30th April 2016 and the report was compiled and submitted to the Provincial office.
“The task team recommended on the report that the salary level at 10111 should be upgraded to salary level 7 (R226 211 p/a) which was also approved by the provincial management which includes the Provincial Commissioner. The Provincial Commissioner then sent the benchmarking report to the Acting National Commissioner General Khomotso Phahlane for approval.”
According to Saftu, a separate evaluation, completed in October last year made similar recommendations but police management later reneged on this, including possible regarding of posts to Constable level with a lower salary package.
Saftu said the national commissioner’s office only responded to various demands on May 17 “with the same attitude that the posts will be converted to constable post as stated on the police act”.
“The members of 10111 supported by SAFTU are therefore marching to the minister of police’s offices on the 6th of June 2017 to voice out their dissatisfaction with the response from the Acting National Commissioner.”
-AFRICA NEWS AGENCY