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GOVT OWES PSAS E1.5M FOR SUBSCRIPTIONS

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MANZINI - Public sector associations (PSAs) are up in arms, as government owes them about E1.5 million in respect of their members’ subscription fees.

However, this amount excludes other deductions, like pension and subscriptions for savings and credit cooperatives. According to the PSAs, for the past five months (since December 2021), government had been remitting subscriptions it deducted from their members’ salaries about three weeks later, something which they viewed as union bashing as it grounded the trade unions’ operations. On average, government is supposed to remit about E1.484 million.

Breakdown

A breakdown of the money shows that about E1 million should go to the Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT), E230 000 to the National Public Service and Allied Workers Union (NAPSAWU), E230 000 to the Swaziland Democratic Nurses Union (SWADNU), and E24 000 to the Swaziland National Association of Government Accounting Personnel (SNAGAP). The PSAs secretariat said usually, government remitted the subscriptions to the unions on or about the 22nd of very calendar month. Later on, they said the employer delayed and it started remitting around the 16th of the following month, which was about three weeks later. In fact, the leaders of the PSAs said government started delaying to remit the subscriptions some years back, but it was a difference of days. However, of late, the delay has worsened.

They said this frustrated their operations and in terms of servicing stop orders, they found themselves paying more in the form of penalties, yet it was the employer who was at fault.
SNAT Secretary General (SG) Sikelela Dlamini said the delay in the remitting of their members’ subscriptions affected and inconvenienced them in many ways. In fact, he said they viewed it as a special form of union bashing by the employer. He said this was because as unions, they had failed to meet their financial obligations or pay suppliers on time. In terms of stop orders at the banks, he said due to the delay in remitting the subscriptions, they found themselves paying more, as every time they missed a stop order, an interest would be charged.

Obligations

On top of that, the unionist said they also had daily obligations which they had to meet as a union, but due to the delay in the remittance of the subscriptions, they failed to meet them. He said this did not affect the operations of the national executive committee (NEC) alone, but even the branches and their structures. “What we suspect is that government is ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul’ by taking our subscriptions and investing them elsewhere or using them to pay some of its debts,” the teachers’ union’s secretary general said. He said this issue was among the grievances which they wanted to table to government as PSAs when they delivered their petitions in October 2021. However, he said the petition delivery march was quashed by members of the State security organs.

On the same note, NAPSAWU First Deputy Secretary General Thabile Zwane said the delay by the employer in remitting the subscriptions was inconveniencing them so much that they were tired of being frustrated by the administration as unions. “Why does the employer fail to remit the money it deducts from our members’ salaries on time? Our partners and suppliers are starting to lose faith in us because we always fail to pay debts on time, all because of the employer,” Zwane said. She said they were made to believe that government was deliberately delaying remitting the funds and its aim was to frustrate their operations and programmes. In that regard, she said they were not taking the matter lightly because if it was a mistake, it should have been fixed a long time ago.

Deadlines

Furthermore, SWADNU Secretary General (SG) Mayibongwe Masangane, concurred with the other leaders of the unions, which are organised under the banner of PSAs. He said recently, they had been missing deadlines in terms of paying stop orders and suppliers, which was something that cost them more money and eroded the trust between them and their partners.
“For example, as SWADNU, we are paying a property through the bank and once we miss the deadline, we have to pay interest,” Masangane said. Moreover, SNAGAP President Dumile Dlamini said most of the operations and activities which fell on dates before the 16th when government would eventually remit the subscriptions, would be affected. “In fact, all our plans would not be implemented until government remits the subscriptions,” she said.

For instance, she said these days they had vusela exercises as PSAs, whereby they visited branches to get mandates on what they should do at the ongoing Joint Negotiations Forum (JNF). She said as unions, they needed to pay for the venues and transport costs, among other things. She added that some of them were renting the offices and also needed to pay salaries for the union’s workers. It is worth noting that this is not the first time the PSAs faced this challenge, as it happened in 2019 such that in June, they delivered a petition to the Accountant General’s Office, where they demanded that government should remit the unions subscriptions on time. Their complaint was that the subscription fees for its members were not remitted on time, something which affected their operations.

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