Minister condemns correctional centre strike

Friday, August 21, 2009

Johannesburg - Correctional Services Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula has issued a stern warning to officials at the Johannesburg Correctional Centre who embarked on an illegal strike, earlier this week.

"This behaviour will not be tolerated," said the minister in a statement on Friday.

Earlier this week, officials at the centre embarked on a go slow demanding the implementation of Occupation Specific Dispensation (OSD) as well as raising concerns about staff shortages and security.

On Wednesday and Thursday, 95 percent of the 1 558 staff members resumed their duties.

However, 80 officials are still refusing to return to work at the Awaiting Trial Detention Centre. They have been served with letters of intention to suspend them.

The minister said that in terms of the Labour Relations Act and the agreements of the bargaining council, any form of industrial action was prohibited in an essential service and security institution such as Correctional Services.

"It would be unfortunate if correctional officials were to lose their jobs on a matter that is receiving top priority from government, but we will not hesitate to take action," she warned.

The Department of Correctional Services further said there was no justification for the illegal industrial action as it was committed to implementing the OSD.

This was evident by the fact that payments of a once off R7 500 to 38 000 officials amounting to R284 million was made in July 2009. This once off-payment is a flat rate given to officials to cover the delayed implementation of OSD that was due for 1 July 2009.

The department has also paid a 1 percent progression in August 2009 to deserving officials, it has given the commitment to pay the OSD adjusted salaries on 30 August 2009 and the implementation of the second phase of the OSD will commence in April next year.

The department further said that it welcomed the stance of the Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (POPCRU) which has distanced itself from the wildcat industrial action.

Operations at the centre have returned to normal, the department said, with all court appearances by inmates incarcerated at Medium A being observed, while those that missed their court appearances due to the strike have been fixed.

Despite media reports, the department has assured the public that contingency plans were put in place to ensure that inmates received food and those that needed health care were attended to.

"Additional administrative staff, emergency support teams and managers from surrounding correctional centres were brought in to ensure the delivery of these critical services," said the department.

Members of the South African Police Service were also deployed to the centre to ensure the safety of the public.