THE National Education Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) leadership in Parliament has raised fears that the chairpersons appointed to oversee members’ internal disciplinary processes are colluding with Parliament’s management for a predetermined outcome.
According to sources, the union is in possession of an audio recording in which one of the chairpersons of members’ disciplinary hearings can be heard speaking to Parliament’s representatives about influencing the process in Parliament’s favour.
Five Nehawu members in Parliament, including parliamentary branch chairman Sthembiso Tembe, faced an internal disciplinary process after they were accused of disrupting staff meetings in Parliament.
Nehawu Western Cape secretary Eric Kweleta said the union went into the hearings with its own recordings which served as evidence that one of the disciplinary hearings’ chairpersons offered biased advice to the employers.
“We have misgivings, particularly on the matter of chairs. We asked that they outline what process they used to select them. Any discipline process should be presided over by the division manager. Only when the employee is aggrieved can you get an external,” said Kweleta.
He said the union considered the conversation captured in the audio as collusion. He said if the integrity of the internal disciplinary process was compromised, the union would approach the Labour Court to interdict Parliament from continuing with the process.
A source who asked not to be named told Business Day that disciplinary chairman Johan Van Der Walt could be heard on the audio discussing the outcome of the process with representatives of Parliament’s management. The source said the audio recording and other forms of evidence were referred to Nehawu’s legal lawyer, Barnabas Xulu.
“A hearing chair should not play an active role in the outcome of the process. The chair is appointed to be unbiased and it is important to get to the bottom of why they were hired because they might be appointed just to get staff members dismissed,” the source said.
Parliament’s spokesman, Luzuko Jacobs, told Business Day that the legislature would not publicly comment on an internal process that was still under way.
“We can’t be giving the blow-by-blow updates of the matter. That would be inappropriate. We will try to treat this matter with circumspection and discretion. These processes continue all of the time whether there is a recess or not, and we would like for the process to unfold fairly and appropriately,” he said.
Nehawu threatened rolling mass action around Parliament over the impasse which began over the downward revision of performance bonuses. The Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration last month directed Parliament to resolve the matter, but said the action did not constitute unfair labour practice.
Union members downed tools in June, in an action which Parliament claimed was illegal. Last year, a strike by Nehawu forced several portfolio committees to stop work, humiliating Parliament’s management.
There are currently six disciplinary hearings with three chairs between them, as well as two prosecutors or initiators in the matter between Parliament and Nehawu.