In what is set to affect payment of grants to millions of beneficiaries, the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) yesterday warned that it was “at an advanced stage” of mobilising for a full-blown countrywide Social Security Agency (Sassa) strike, commencing on Wednesday.
According to Nehawu general secretary Zola Saphetha, the strike is due to “the refusal” of Sassa management to resolve technical glitches brought about by the migration of the social grant payment system from Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) to the South African Post Office (Sapo).
“These challenges include the introduction of biometric enrolment of beneficiaries and staff, grant business process and Socpen fraud,” said Saphetha.
Socpen is a system used for the processing of social grants to beneficiaries, which was reviewed by the auditor-general.
Saphetha said the union had been “advocating for security improvements on the Socpen system since 2014 as a result of fraud”.
He said: “On the 31st October 2017 the employer, as a response to that demand presented the biometric identity access and management for staff.
“Workers demanded a more detailed project plan related to the new system the employer was introducing.
“To our surprise, when the employer took workers for training on the system, they trained them to perform biometric enrolment for beneficiaries instead of biometric identity access and management for staff as initially presented to workers by Sassa management.”
Sassa staff, said Saphetha, expressed unhappiness and anxiety about the biometric enrolment for beneficiaries – “a new function that workers were not consulted on, which the employer implemented unilaterally”.
“The system has numerous flaws – at the detriment of beneficiaries who rely on social grants for existence as well as workers.
“The union has been at the forefront in raising concerns about the biometric system and continuously warned Sassa of the huge impact it will have on the 17 million beneficiaries.
“As it stands, many beneficiaries have not been paid their social grants or taken through the process of transition and the migration from CPS to Sapo.
“This is attributed by the challenges and experiences brought about by the invalid CPS contract, which has subjected beneficiaries through its subsidiary company Net1, to illegal deductions related to loans through the Grindrod Card.”
The process of engaging Sassa came to a deadlock on 20 September this year when management were unwilling to accede to Nehawu demands.
These included the:
- Suspension of the biometric enrolment of beneficiaries.
- Giving priority to worker consultation on the biometric enrolment of beneficiaries.
- Undertaking job evaluation in the grants administration.
- Inclusion of the biometric enrolment in the KPAs (Key Performance Areas) of employees performing of the function.
Asked for reaction, Sassa said it was discussing the strike threat with the view of coming up with a response.