Cash-strapped SAPO employees worried about their packages

Cash-strapped South African Post Office employees say they are worried that their retrenchment packages because the entity is not transparent about the process. Picture: Leon Lestrade Independent Newspapers

Cash-strapped South African Post Office employees say they are worried that their retrenchment packages because the entity is not transparent about the process. Picture: Leon Lestrade Independent Newspapers

Published Apr 14, 2024


EMPLOYEES of the South African Post Office (SAPO) are worried that they might not receive their full package, after they were served with letters of retrenchment.

This was after the entity issued 4 700 retrenchment letters to workers and indicated that it was looking to the government for more money to pay out the packages.

This is believed to be part of the business rescue plan by business rescue practitioners (BRP).

The Post Office has run at a loss every year since 2013 and has failed to compete with private couriers. It has since recorded over R19 billion in losses.

It is believed that cutting staff would reduce the wage bill of more than R1bn.

An employee, who is working in the sales department, said she was worried that they might not receive their full packages, adding that there was no transparency in the process.

She said the company did not pay their pension and medical funds, and workers have not been updated about that money. Even those who were retrenched previously have not received that money.

“To make it worse, for them it was calculated in their packages and for us, it was not calculated. When you ask HR they would tell you that they are waiting for a directive from the BRP,” said the employee, who asked not to be named.

The employee also said the company said it would pay R12 for every R100 owed to them. She said this was shocking as the entity was not clear if the R12 would be paid from the employee or the company’s contribution.

“I think there is a possibility that if they owe me R100 000 for my contributions, I might get R12 000. And this is not fair because this is the money owed to me. We were even told that we would receive salary for our pro rata days worked over eight months,” said the employee.

She added that the SAPO cannot afford to lose 4 700 staff members, saying that many people have been leaving in the past, especially last year after the entity struggled to pay salaries.

BRP’s Anoosh Rooplal said the reduction in staff compliment was in line with the reduction in size of the Post Office that is required, should the business stand a chance of a sustainable future. Rooplal added that he relevant unions and employee committee communicated with the Post Office employee base throughout the facilitation process.

“It was further agreed during the facilitation process that packages would be agreed as per the Basic Conditions of Employment Act and that the retrenchment payments would take place over 8 months in 3 tranches, with the first payment being made in June 2024.

The BRPs have taken over the communication process and have communicated with exiting staff on the details required for ease of exiting the business, registering for UIF, pension details and providing contact details for HR personal in the various regions’’, said Rooplal.

He said they reiterate that retrenchments were an unavoidable decision as the failure to cut salary costs and reduce the size of the Post Office would have resulted in the entity failing to pay employees their salaries on an on- going basis and in time may have resulted in a possible liquidation, in which the business would have been shut down and everyone would have lost their jobs.

Another employee, who took a voluntary severance package (VSP) last year, also said there was no transparency in the process, saying it took about seven months to receive her salary for pro rata days worked. She said she was also told that the full pension money would be paid after paying the VSP and she is still waiting to receive the money.

“Some of us left before the BRPs were appointed in June last year and we were told that we would not be affected by their rules. And all of a sudden, we are told that we will not get out full pay,” she said, adding that the company has been quiet since then. She said has been sending emails without any feedback from the Post Office.

In the letter sent to workers last week, SAPO said it had been agreed during the consultation that there would be positions advertised during the notice period. The company said employees were advised to apply.

“You will note that the notice period afforded to yourself is more than a monthly period. This is to make provision for the employer to go through a recruitment process for positions which you may qualify for. To avoid any confusion, the April payment and salary will be the notice pay as you will be required to serve your full notice period,” read the letter.

The employees were also promised that they would receive their severance pay, notice pay, pro rata days worked and accumulated leave days. The company said amounts would only be paid in accordance with the agreements reached during the consultation.

The Sunday Independent tried to get comments from the Communication Workers Union (CWU) and the South African Postal Workers Union (SAPWU), which represents workers, but was unsuccessful.

However, in a letter issued on March 22 following a meeting with SAPO and the BRPs, the CWU said the retrenchments were unavoidable given that the organisation did not have money to pay salaries beyond March 2024. The union said it had done its best to reduce numbers.

SAPWU and the Postal and Communications Union said the problem at SAPO has never been the staff complement but the failure of the shareholder and management to make it a competitive entity.