The ability of the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) to deliver social grants is in jeopardy, thanks to a strike by Sassa employees and glitches in the changeover from its old service provider to its new one.
According to Eyewitness News (EWN), social development minister Susan Shabangu filed an urgent application at the Labour Court on Monday in an effort to stop the strike by Sassa employees belonging to the Public Servants Association (PSA).
Arguments were heard on Tuesday, and EWN reports Shabangu claimed workers are classified as essential services staff who are legally not allowed to strike, and that Sassa does not determine their salaries.
Shabangu also said Sassa's capacity to distribute grants was now at risk.
Sassa has already had hiccups in distributing grants during the changeover from its old service provider, Cash Paymaster Services (CPS), and its new one, the South African Post Office (SAPO).
According to News24, some recipients had difficulties with electronic payments on Monday, but Sassa said this should be resolved in the coming days. Sassa reportedly claimed this was because of the changeover of service providers and said social grants would be paid out in full, but that recipients should give themselves three days to withdraw their grants.
City Press reported that the interdict application was postponed until Wednesday to allow Sassa and the PSA to verify whether Sassa employees were essential services employees.
Workers reportedly want a general sliding-scale salary increase of between 13 and 15 percent and a housing allowance, annual leave and safer working conditions. Sassa signed agreements with other unions agreeing to a 7 percent wage hike, but the PSA says it was not consulted on this.
Adding to the grant recipients' woes is the fact that Sassa is having trouble issuing people with new cards — a requirement for the new system in place with the Post Office. According to Daily Maverick, many people were turned away from the Sassa offices on Tuesday, where they queued to get their new cards.
Meanwhile, the PSA says it will "not allow any intimidation from the minister", and insists the strike is protected.