The Committee heard the responses of the South African National Defence Union, the South African Security Forces Union and the Congress of South African Trade Unions to the revised provisions of the Defence Amendment Bill introduced by the Department of Defence and Military Veterans on 18 August 2010.
The South African National Defence Union was unable to prepare a detailed response in the limited time available and requested a postponement. The Committee agreed to receive a written response from the union within ten days.
The National Organiser of the South African National Defence Union took the opportunity to make a statement on the public service strike currently underway. The union pledged support for the striking workers and deplored the use made of the public and members of the Defence Force as “scab labour”. The union was contemplating measures to provide practical support for the strike and would announce its intentions on Friday, 27 August 2010.
Members of the Committee felt that a discussion on the strike and the statement made by the representative of the union was inappropriate during the proceedings. The Chairperson allowed the Members from the Democratic Alliance and the Freedom Front Plus to respond to the statement. The Democratic Alliance supported the initiatives of the Minister of Defence to deploy members of the Defence Force to provide assistance in healthcare facilities during the strike but was strongly opposed to the military unions instituting any measures that would disrupt the military operations during the strike. The Freedom Front Plus thanked the Defence Force for the assistance provided during the strike and pointed out that strike action by members of the Defence Force was restricted.
The South African Security Forces Union and the Congress of South African Trade Unions made a joint submission. The unions were not convinced that the changes made to the provisions of the Bill would not result in the de-unionising of the Defence Force. The unions were not opposed to the establishment of the National Defence Force Service Commission but intended to monitor the implementation process to ensure that the collective bargaining rights of members of the Defence Force were not undermined. COSATU intended to engage with the Department of Defence and Military Veterans to address the current concerns over the dysfunctional nature of the mechanisms for collective bargaining and requested the support of the Committee for the process.
A Member queried the relationship between the South African Security Forces Union and the Congress of South African Trade Unions as it was illegal for a military union to associate with another union.
The Committee had invited the South African National Defence Union (SANDU 2), the South African Security Forces Union (SASFU) and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) to provide further input and to respond to the revised provisions of the Defence Amendment Bill
The Chairperson advised that the Committee would commence deliberations on the Bill during the following week, after discussing a report on military veterans.
Mr L Mphahlele (PAC) stated that he was a military veteran and belonged to a category of veterans that was not recognised by the current legislation governing military veterans. He wished to make it clear to the Committee that he would not participate in any discussion on military veterans and intended to seek a Court interdict preventing the Committee from holding any such discussion.
The Chairperson said that the discussion would provide an opportunity for Mr Mphahlele to present his views on the matter.
Mr L Tolo (COPE) remarked that the number of military veterans in the country was not known.
The Chairperson suggested that the discussion on military veterans was deferred to the following week.
Mr D Maynier (DA) agreed with the suggestion made by the Chairperson. With regard to the Defence Amendment Bill, he proposed that the Committee dealt with the amendments concerning the Military Command and the Reserve Force in the first instance and postponed the discussion on the establishment of the National Defence Force Service Commission (NDFSC) at a later stage. He was of the opinion that it was imperative that the Committee had sight of the reports issued by the Interim National Defence Force Service Commission (INDFSC) before deliberating on the establishment of the permanent Commission.
The Chairperson advised that the Committee had not yet received the response from the Speaker to the request that the INDFSC reports were made available to the Members. The Minister of Defence and Military Veterans had indicated that the reports had no bearing on the establishment of the NDFSC.
Mr A Mlangeni (ANC) said that he did not know why the Democratic Alliance (DA) was insisting on the release of the reports. The Minister had made it clear that the INDFSC was a ministerial Commission, which was supported by the Cabinet. The reports from the INDFSC had to be submitted to the Minister and had to be approved by the Cabinet before being made public.
The Chairperson pointed out that the Members of the Committee had the right to express their views.
Briefing by the South African National Defence Union (SANDU 2)
Mr Pikkie Greeff, National Secretary, SANDU 2 advised that the union’s response would be presented by Mr Jeff Dubazana, National Organiser, SANDU 2.
Mr Dubazana made use of the opportunity to advise the Committee that SANDU 2 supported the strike by the public service unions that was currently underway. He advised that SANDU 2 was in the process of considering ways of providing practical support to the workers that were on strike. He said that there was a line that could not be crossed, i.e. the use of members of the public or soldiers as “scab labourers”. He advised that an announcement on the decision taken by the union would be made on Friday, 27 August 2010. He said that if any blame for what was happening was to be apportioned, that blame was to be laid squarely at the door of Government for the lack of leadership that was displayed. Government had the means to solve the problem but chose not to do so. He reiterated that SANDU 2 supported the striking workers.
Referring to the revised provisions of the Bill, Mr Dubazana said that the changes that were made (for example the re-introduction of the Military Bargaining Council (MBC) into the provisions) had not resulted in any significant departure from the position previously taken by SANDU 2. The revised Bill only became available to the union on Monday, 23 August 2010. The union would appreciate more time in order to prepare a detailed response and he asked for a week’s grace to submit the response.
The Chairperson requested input from the Members of the Committee on the request from SANDU 2 to postpone the briefing on the union’s response by one week.
Mr E Mlambo (ANC) thought that the request was fair.
Mr P Groenewald (FF+) agreed but suggested that the response was made in writing rather than scheduling another oral briefing. The Committee was interested in hearing the response of the union. He asked how much time was required by the union to prepare.
Mr Maynier supported Mr Groenewald’s suggestion.
Mr Dubazana said that a period of ten days was sufficient.
Mr Groenewald thought that ten days would be too long and that the Committee should receive the response before continuing deliberations, which were scheduled to commence during the following week.
The Chairperson undertook to liaise with Mr Greeff on the matter.
Mr Greeff agreed to submit a written response and gave the assurance that representatives from SANDU 2 would be available to appear before the Committee if required.
The Chairperson asked SANDU 2 if there were any other comments pertinent to the Bill.
Mr Dubazana referred to the briefing document submitted to the Committee during the meeting held on 18 August 2010. The NDFSC was established to advise the Minister on the conditions of service of members of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF). SANDU 2 was of the opinion that the NDFSC would result in the destruction of the military unions. Although the provisions of the Bill were changed to include the MBC, the Bill continued to allow for the Minister to make decisions after receiving advice from the NDFSC.
Mr Mlangeni interrupted Mr Dubazana. He said that, presumably, the comments made would form part of the response that would be made by SANDU 2 in due course. He felt that the Committee should await the detailed written response before entering into a discussion.
Mr Dubazana accepted the point made by Mr Mlangeni.
The Chairperson advised that the Committee awaited the written response from SANDU 2.
Mr Greeff thanked the Committee for the opportunity to attend the meeting. He said that SANDU 2 was very serious about the Bill.
The Chairperson said that the Committee respected the entities that had made submissions on the Bill. He suggested that SANDU 2 consulted with their legal advisers and obtained advice that would result in legislation that would not be challenged in the Constitutional Court.
Mr Maynier wished to respond to the statement made by Mr Dubazana.
The Chairperson asked the Members of the Committee to provide input on whether or not the Committee should respond to the statement.
Mr A Maziya (ANC) referred to the statement made by Mr Dubazana concerning the strikes. He felt that the meeting was not the correct platform for discussing the matter.
Mr Groenewald said that the Chairperson should not allow a statement to be made and then prevent the Members of the Committee from discussing the matter. He felt that the Members had the right to respond to the statement.
Mr Mphahlele pointed out that the Committee was not being consulted by SANDU 2 on the issue of the strikes. The matter was not on the agenda of the Committee and should not be discussed.
Mr Mlangeni agreed that it was not appropriate for the strikes to be discussed during the meeting. The matter fell outside the jurisdiction of the Committee. The fact that a remark was made does not necessarily require a response from the Members. The Defence Amendment Bill dealt with the SANDF and not with the public service.
Mr Groenewald said that the matter did not have to be discussed. However, he had noticed that a Member of the Committee wished to respond to the statement made by Mr Dubazana and he felt that the Member should be allowed to comment.
The Chairperson conceded that both points of view were valid and agreed that Members were allowed to respond to the statement made by Mr Dubazana.
Mr Maynier noted that Mr Dubazana had stated that SANDU 2 was considering practical ways to support the striking workers. The actions taken by the strikers included dragging patients out of operating theatres, disrupting healthcare services and preventing students from attending classes. The deployment of the security services (including the SANDF) was what prevented the situation from descending into total chaos. He understood that approximately 3,000 members of the Defence Force was providing assistance at 73 hospitals. He inferred from the statement made by Mr Dubazana that certain steps contemplated by the union could disrupt the military operations. He warned that the country would have a big problem if the SANDF operations were disrupted. He fully supported the remarks made by the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans during a visit to the Baragwanath hospital earlier in the week. The Minister had deplored the actions of striking workers and had given the assurance that the SANDF would do all it could to ensure that medical services were provided. If the actions taken by the military unions disrupted the services provided by the Defence Force, both the SANDF and the country would have a major problem.
Mr Groenewald took the opportunity to thank the members of the SANDF who were providing assistance during the strikes. The soldiers were doing their duty and indicated their willingness to serve the country. He pointed out that the SANDF was not allowed to go on strike. He did not know what measures were being contemplated by the military unions but if these measures were irresponsible, it would not be in the interests of South Africa or the SANDF.
The Chairperson informed SANDU 2 that the Members of the Committee supported the initiatives taken by the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans. The deployment of the SANDF was preventing the situation from descending into anarchy. He advised that further debate on the matter would not be entertained.
Briefing by the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and the South African Security Forces Union (SASFU)
Mr Woody Aroun, Parliamentary Officer, National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) advised that he would present the joint response to the amended Bill by COSATU and SASFU in the absence of Ms Prakashnee Govender, Parliamentary Office Co-ordinator, COSATU.
Mr Aroun read the document compiled by COSATU (see attached document). COSATU remained unconvinced that the Bill did not seek to de-unionise the Defence Force. COSATU welcomed the inclusion of the MBC and the Military Arbitration Board (MAB) in the provisions of the Bill as this meant that the current institutional arrangements applicable to collective bargaining in the SANDF were retained. COSATU did not oppose the establishment of the NDFSC but gave notice of its intention to monitor the implementation process to ensure that the collective bargaining rights of the military unions were not undermined.
COSATU intended to engage with the Department of Defence and Military Veterans on the ongoing problems with the implementation of the collective bargaining rights of members of the SANDF and requested the support of the Committee in facilitating the process.
Mr Bhekinkosi Mvovo, President, SASFU said that the union had noted the changes made to the provisions of Section 55 of the Bill. SASFU considered that the provision stating “…and recommended to the Minister by the Commission” was irrelevant. The NDFSC would advise the Minister but the Minister was the employer and submitted the employer’s offer in the bargaining process. SASFU did not object to the establishment of a ministerial advisory Commission but did object to the interference of the Secretary for Defence and the Chief of the Defence Force in additional structures concerned with the determination of conditions of service. The union felt that the duplication of the existing structures should be avoided.
SASFU was doubtful whether the proposed NDFSC would be effective and drew a parallel with the Intelligence Services Council (ISC). The efforts of the ISC had been frustrated and undermined and the current Minister of Intelligence Services had stated that the Department of Intelligence Services needed to be re-organised. The ISC was originally established by the current Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, who was now proposing a similar entity to be established. SASFU warned against the establishment of a structure that was based on the point of view of an individual Minister. The performance of the ISC had been satisfactory when the Honourable Sisulu was the responsible Minister but had not continued to function as well under the new Minister.
Mr Maynier noted that SASFU and COSATU had submitted a joint response. He requested that the relationship between SASFU and COSATU was clarified as it was illegal for a military union to form an association with another union.
The Chairperson thanked the delegates for the submissions made and re-affirmed the Committee’s continued support and willingness to work with the stakeholders in the Defence Force. The Committee was concerned by the dysfunctional nature of the MBC and was aware of the many challenges faced by the military unions. The Committee would attempt to accommodate the concerns raised during the public hearings on the Bill during further deliberations. The Committee awaited the written response from SANDU 2 to the changes made to the Bill. He asked if SANDU 2 was satisfied that the changes would no longer criminalise the failure to respond to call-up by members of the SANDF Reserve Force.
Mr Greeff advised that SANDU 2 would include the acknowledgements in the written response.
The meeting was adjourned.
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