The South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) says it remains committed to ensuring that grant beneficiaries get their money without any interruption.
This comes as the National Education‚ Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) threatens to shut down SASSA offices on Wednesday.
In a media briefing held in Johannesburg on Monday, Nehawu said the strike was the result of SASSA’s refusal to resolve challenges brought about by the migration of the social grant payment system from Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) to the South African Post Office (SAPO).
Responding to the strike threat by Nehawu, Acting SASSA CEO Abraham Mahlangu said the agency was disappointed that one of its labour organisations had threatened to embark on strike action as a result of a disagreement on SASSA’s internal process of biometric enrolment.
According to Mahlangu, the affected staff members were provided with training to enable them to perform the function.
“It is also important to clarify that the biometric enrolment referred to is not a new function. This was previously done manually as part of the application process, where ink and a pad were used and the beneficiary’s fingerprint put on paper,” Mahlangu said in a statement issued on Tuesday.
Mahlangu said when SASSA entered into a contract with CPS in 2012, the ink, pad and paper were replaced with digital capturing called biometric enrolment, and SASSA discontinued the manual process, as this would be a duplicate process.
“In its first report to the Constitutional Court in June 2017, SASSA reported that it would take over the biometric enrolment from CPS. This was later communicated to organised labour, before the staff training commenced,” Mahlangu explained.
Mahlangu said it was unfortunate that the union should be resorting to strike action because SASSA has been in talks with Nehawu regarding its grievances relating to the level of training on biometric enrolment provided to staff.
He said SASSA went to the extent of withdrawing all disciplinary processes against employees who refuse to perform the biometric function, pending engagements with Nehawu.
“Thus far, an agreement has been reached to provide additional training to employees, who so wish to enable themselves to perform this critical function. SASSA has also committed to commencing with the process to re-evaluate the whole grants value chain. The process includes re-evaluating the biometric enrolment function itself and determining its impact on staff.”
Mahlangu said it was unfortunate that Nehawu walked out of the meeting held between SASSA and the union on 25 September 2018, where SASSA had planned to demonstrate the grants process, including the biometric enrolment. However, Nehawu walked out of the meeting before the actual presentation and demonstration of the process.
“It is also worth mentioning that SASSA believes in the capability of its employees and their quest to service the most vulnerable of our society. As SASSA, we call upon Nehawu to resume engagements with us so we can find an amicable way of resolving any outstanding issues regarding biometrics so we can continue to provide our beneficiaries with the excellent level of service that SASSA is renowned for,” Mahlangu said