Parliamentary staff have brought the legislature to a standstill for the third day as they barged into a portfolio committee meeting on policing – effectively stopping the work being done by MPs.
MPs were forced to vacate the Good Hope chamber, the building adjacent to the President’s Tuynhuys office, when the workers from the National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) entered.
Over a hundred protesting workers caused chaos by barging their way into the portfolio committee on police.
The committee was reading through its recommendations regarding the Farlam Commission as staff came in shouting, whistling and blowing vuvuzelas and banging tables.
Deputy Minister of police Maggie Sotyu sat quietly as frustrated workers surrounded her and quickly filed all of the Good Hope Chamber.
Speaking directly to MPs in the committee room, Sthembiso Tembe, chairman of the parliamentary branch of Nehawu, said the workers were not giving up until all members of Parliament had left the room.
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MPs got up and left, at which point, Tembe addressed workers, saying: “We just received a report today …’not gonna get paid on Friday’.”
He added: “No Parliamentary committee is going to sit up till our demands are met.”
On Tuesday evening, Parliament had taken recourse to an interdict dating back to 2010 to prevent striking staff from disrupting the work of the legislature.
Briefing journalists on the ongoing strike by hundreds of support staff, secretary to Parliament Gengezi Mgidlana said the interdict, which prevents workers from picketing and protesting on the premises of the legislature, was still in effect five years later.
On Wednesday morning Tembe informed striking workers that they had received an interdict, but he vowed not to respect it.
Gengezi had said on Tuesday that while negotiations with the union would continue, Parliament would not allow any disruptions to its work.
“You can’t stop people from doing their work. You can’t stop the work of Parliament. Those issues really are non-negotiable,” he said.
The 11am sitting of the National Assembly on Tuesday was cancelled as a result of the strike, as well as four portfolioo committee meetings.
Workers are demanding better pay and pension benefits, an end to outsourcing of services at the legislature, and for Parliament to abandon the controversial process of re-vetting all staff for security purposes.
Nehawu is also accusing Parliament of reneging on an agreement reached in March to address complaints regarding the pension fund system.