NEHAWU consulting members to end SASSA strike

Workers from the Khayelitsha Social Development office joined the nationwide strike. Photo by Qhama Mroleli

SASSA officials in Khayelitsha joined the nationwide strike calling for suspension of the biometric enrollment system.

The National Education Health and Allied Workers Union (NEHAWU) was still consulting members on Thursday following a draft agreement that they reached with the Minister of Social Development after they deadlocked on the issue of biometric enrollment. The union embarked on a nationwide strike calling for the suspension of the biometric system which it claims has flaws that are to the detriment of grant beneficiaries. NEHAWU says problems with the system were brought about by the migration of the Social Grant System from Cash Paymaster Services to the South African Post Office.

NEHAWU’s deputy provincial secretary, Emilia Maloi said that the biometric system is open to the corruption of staff “because it is not safe”. Maloi said that with the biometric system they only do two-step verification instead of the previous four steps they were using under the Social Pensions (SOCPEN) system. The biometric system according to Maloi means that verifying a beneficiary requires them to go to the Department of Home Affairs in person, spending money they obviously do not have for the transport getting there.

“We heard from other provinces that with the biometric system people were driving around in trucks with mobile banks and telling beneficiaries that they can draw twice… The system will only give the beneficiaries R700 each time which totals to R1,400. On the system it will show that they were paid in full, but the old age grant is R1,700. The beneficiary will be sitting with R300 short and there is no way of them getting it back,” explained Moloi.

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On the first day of the strike, the Minister of Social Development Susan Shabangu called a meeting with the union where according to NEHAWU, they “arrived at a positive outcome for both beneficiaries and workers and at the end both parties agreed that Biometrics must be suspended and that functionality on the system must be reversed by Monday, 15 October 2018”.

Speaking to Elitsha NEHAWU regional secretary, Xolani Matutu, said that they regard the strike as a victory because the suspension of the biometric system was their main demand. “The biometric system was sneaked without our knowledge into the system and the workers were not getting paid for it,” said Matutu.

“We will demobilise by Friday and on Monday the workers will go back to work,” he said.

According to the statement by NEHAWU they agreed with the minister that “the ‘no work, no pay’ principle will not be applied and that no workers will face punitive measures for participating in the strike.”

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