Improving Service Delivery Through a Strong Worker Representation

  • By Press Release
  • 19 Dec, 2012

18 and 19 December 2012 by Vice President Thabo Matsose 

Introduction

Programme Director, organisers of this conference, distinguish guests, ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much for inviting my organisation, the South Africa Policing Union (SAPU) to attend and share with all of you our experience and our role as a workers organisation in improving service delivery in the public service. As already been mentioned in the introduction, my name is Thabo Matsose and I am 2nd   Vice president at SAPU.

We are indeed privileged to have been invited and as such we are happy to contribute ideas through this presentation. This is a very important topic for our organisation and our work in the past few years has been aimed at looking at ways of improving the delivery of public services. As such we have formed strategic partnerships with progressive civil society formations and community based structures to champion this cause. We have for example partnered with Community Police forums precisely to look at ways of strengthening the delivery of policing services to community.

Our own experience and the experiences of many often ordinary people indicate to us that a lot of improvement is required in delivering quality public services to the public. Unlike wealthy people who often opt to access services provided by private service providers ordinary people do not enjoy that privilege. Ordinary people rely heavily virtually on services provided by public institutions such as for example, health care services and security services. Privileged people often opt for services provided by private service providers because either of poor public services or at worst lack of services.

The Challenge of Services in the Public Sector

We often read in the media of people who queue for hours and sometimes days at public hospitals and clinics looking for healthcare services only to be denied such services. Very recently, in my country in one of the townships in Pretoria, there was a case of a pregnant woman who visited a local clinic because she was in labour. After queuing for hours she was told that because of her blood pressure she needed to go to the hospital because the clinic did not have the adequate equipment to assist. The woman who could hardly walk because of the pain of being in labour was ushered out of the clinic and asked to leave. She nearly could walk and gave birth in the parking lot assisted by frantic members of the public. Even when she was giving birth no nurse came to offer support or render assistance to this woman who was clearly in distress. The pleas from concerned member of the public were not headed by the nursing staffs who clearly have completely abandoned their oath. This is just one example of experiences of ordinary people not only in my country but in many African countries.

Similar terrifying experiences can be used in other public sector institutions. For example, children in many public schools are often overcrowded. In my country the acceptable ratio is 1 teacher for 40 learners but the reality is that some teachers have up to 80 learners in a class. In the private school, the norm is to have 20 to 30 learners per class.

It is fact that many ordinary people rely on the state police services for their security and the security of their homes and property yet there is often very little investment made in this sector. The same can be said about teachers and nurses that some of the structural problems that impact on the delivery of services by public sector institutions is as a result of lack of investment by governments in improving conditions in the public sector. In other countries police officers have shared with us that because of lack of adequate vehicles investigating officers often have to use public transport to do their work. Can you imagine a police officer who has just made an arrest and he/she has to look for public transport to transport the suspect to the police station because the a senior officer is using the only available vehicle at that police station. The lack of investment in public sector in many results in violating the human rights and dignity of ordinary and marginalised people in society.

As a result, the public sector is less attractive than private sector. The relatively unattractive image that the public service is considered to have in the many African countries encourages many skilled people to pursue careers in the private sector. The denigration of the public sector and public servants can produce a self-fulfilling prophecy that drives out the most

able professionals. The net effect of that is that often the public sector attracts people who are less skilled, less motivated and lack passion to serve ordinary people. The unions have an important role in the transformation of the public sector and ensuring that it is productive and efficient in providing services.

The Role of Trade Unions

Trade unions and worker representative bodies must work hard to disprove existing literature which suggests that the unions’ role in public sector efficiency   is limited. Studies conducted where union representation is rather high in the public sector suggest that high levels of unionisation constrain flexibility, productivity and delivery of public services.  For example, It has been found that collective bargaining in local government in the United States led to increased municipal expenditures. However, the impact of unions on issues of efficiency and effectiveness is unclear. European studies find no relationship, either positive or negative. This observation points to the importance of national differences in the nature of unionisation, including differences in the level of bargaining. The scarcity of research on public sector unions is all the more remarkable because, in all probability, the role of unions in the public sector differs from the private sector substantially, as public sector unions are more prominent, bargaining is not strictly managerial, it is also a political affair, and many of the public services are considered essential.

 

The examples above bring me to discuss the role of trade unions and workers representation in improving the delivery of public services. If I can go back to my example of the nurse above, there was no public outcry or condemnation of such behaviour from unions or worker representatives operating in the health sector. In overcrowded and non performing schools there is often no condemnation of departments of education who fail to improve conditions in public schools. The police officers in many African countries do not enjoy the benefits of being treated as citizens and it is no wonder that in return the police cannot treat ordinary people as citizens. Our position is that before police officers are citizens and as such must enjoy all the benefits enjoyed by all citizens. It is for this reason that our government in 1994 made it lawful for most sectors including the police and military to be unionised. As SAPU, this is a right we do not take for granted because of our understanding that labour rights are human rights.

Trade unions and workers representative organisations play an important role in a number of areas including strengthening labour legislation, workers rights and improving the delivery of services to the public. Perhaps as unions we have placed little attention on the delivery of services to the public because we have mobilised resources to deal only with labour issues which do not include the delivery of services to the public. It is for this reason that SAPU in the past 2 years have developed an anti-corruption programme to deal with corrupt public service employees. Please take notice that some of the public service employees who have felt the brunt of this programme as also SAPU members. As SAPU we are convinced that unless all sectors of our society and government deal decisively with this problem ordinary and marginalised communities would be denied access to quality public services. When a passport officer denies issuing a passport because he or she expects a bribe or a police officer fails to make a arrest or open a case docket because the victim has not paid a bribe simply undermines the provisioning of public services. We believe that genuine worker rights who are also advocates of human rights, democracy and labour rights will not turn a blind eye when such things happen.

Our view is that one of the important role of trade unions is that of monitoring the delivery of public services by union members. Public service employees must understand that when they fail to deliver quality services to the public the net suffer is the poor citizen and ultimately the government. Perhaps in South Africa we are still privileged that South African citizens are still able to organise themselves and take to the street in protest against poor delivery of public services. When that happens, ordinary people have targeted public buildings and public transport such as trains and buses and burnt them. That also has an impact on the activities of trade unions as workers are laid off or retrenched because of job losses. Even in countries that do not citizen activism, ordinary people one day will raise up and say enough is enough and the country will burn and may also result in change in governments.

Recommendations

Programme director, before a sit down I wish to make just three recommendation which I hope will transform our understating of trade union role in improving the delivery of services in the public sector.

Firstly, I think that for trade unions and worker representative organisations to be effect in ensuring that quality public services are provided there is a need to fight to have quality rather than quantity in the public sector. Trade unions must interrogate employment policies and practices which promote nepotism and corruption in order to ensure that the qualified people are employed in the right positions.

Secondly, there is also a need to strengthen capacity of trade unions leaders to understand the role of trade unions particularly in a democracy and developing economy. This is particularly important given that the majority of people in the developing world are heavily reliant on the public sector for services. Trade union leaders should be able to transcend from pursuing narrow political goals and ensure that quality public services are provided both to workers and ordinary people.

Thirdly, there is a need for trade union to be depoliticised in order to ensure that there are independent from manipulation and narrow political influence. Many trade unions in the region are severely compromised because they take orders from politicians and as such cannot challenge the centre or political discourse.

Lastly, there is also a need for trade union to invest in research in order to understand drivers in the public sector which impact on poor delivery of public services. Research will also assist trade unions understand the impact of poor service delivery on the quality of lives of citizens and also circumstances which result in poor services being delivered.

I thank you

By Press Release 19 Dec, 2012

Programme Director, organisers of this conference, distinguish guests, ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much for inviting my organisation, the South Africa Policing Union (SAPU) to attend and share with all of you our experience and our role as a workers organisation in improving service delivery in the public service. As already been mentioned in the introduction, my name is Thabo Matsose and I am 2nd   Vice president at SAPU.

We are indeed privileged to have been invited and as such we are happy to contribute ideas through this presentation. This is a very important topic for our organisation and our work in the past few years has been aimed at looking at ways of improving the delivery of public services. As such we have formed strategic partnerships with progressive civil society formations and community based structures to champion this cause. We have for example partnered with Community Police forums precisely to look at ways of strengthening the delivery of policing services to community.

Our own experience and the experiences of many often ordinary people indicate to us that a lot of improvement is required in delivering quality public services to the public. Unlike wealthy people who often opt to access services provided by private service providers ordinary people do not enjoy that privilege. Ordinary people rely heavily virtually on services provided by public institutions such as for example, health care services and security services. Privileged people often opt for services provided by private service providers because either of poor public services or at worst lack of services.

By Press Release 17 Oct, 2012
Marikana: Conceived, Born in Violence

Surely, the most surprising aspect of the tragic events at the Marikana mine – where a total of 44 mine workers and members of the police lost their lives – is that everyone was so surprised that it had happened.

We are rightly shocked, but should have expected such an event for a long time already. In the past, we put up with lawlessness, violence and intimidation to such an extent that they have become part of the culture in which we address our differences in public.

We should also not be surprised that political vultures such as Julius Malema are cynically using the death of mine workers and the suffering of their next of kin to promote political ambitions.

Labour and wage disputes hardly ever occur without lawlessness, violence or intimidation.

The same holds true for protests against poor service delivery or opportunistic protests, such as those of the ANC Youth league in the Western Cape at the moment.

There have been violent strikes by health workers, municipal officials and security guards. A noteworthy exception was the protest against urban toll roads in Gauteng.  During the strike by security guards, about 60 people – more than at Marikana – were thrown to their death from trains and the like.

But what were the consequences? No-one was prosecuted. And there is scarcely any significant political leadership to put a stop to violence as a means of bargaining in our democracy.

For that matter, if all contributing causes of violence were examined, President Jacob Zuma’s “give me my machine gun” and Malema’s “we’ll kill for Zuma” would indeed have to be scrutinised as contributing factors to a culture of violence.

It is hardly worth debating that such language use cannot be conducive to a public culture of responsible, disciplined and peaceful withholding of labour as an expression of worker power.

In short, for a complete picture, the Farlam commission, which is investigating the causes of the Marikana tragedy, actually also has to focus on background factors – such as violent speech and lack of action against transgression of the law, and violence – which contribute to the creation of a social climate in which intimidation and violent protest flourish.

This is in addition to more obvious contributing factors, such as the inadequacy of bargaining structures and courts created to address labour disputes; desperate living and work conditions; politicking among unions; the strategies and practices of mine management; migrant labour; sangomas; and poverty and low wages.

Three aspects of this culture in which differences are handled and “solved” violently in the public deserve mention.

Respect for the law: Firstly, it is apparently of little consequence whether a protest or strike is legal or illegal. The DA holds a legal protest in the streets of Johannesburg against the delay in implementation of a youth wage subsidy, but it is violently broken up by an illegal counter protest by members of the ruling alliance.

The official reaction was unprincipled. During the violence and thereafter, there was no action against transgressors, although they could easily be identified.

Nursing staff who chose to look after helpless patients (some of whom actually died as a result of the strike) instead of striking are assaulted and humiliated. Assault is a transgression of the law, but is not punished.

This makes lawlessness during the next strike all the easier, since you know you can get away with it. When the strike against urban toll roads in Gauteng happens peacefully, everyone is surprised, precisely because it goes against the norm. 

Respect for authority: Secondly, a disconcerting characteristic of our society is the ease with which the police are regarded as fair game to be assaulted and killed. Murder of a member of the police force is a crime not just against the person, but also against the authority of the state, symbolised by the wearing of a uniform.

It is for that reason that murder of a member of the police force is viewed in a much more serious light in countries such as the USA and Britain. We can indeed try to look for explanations for this in the history of the apartheid police 20 and more years ago, but it cannot serve as a justification. 

And naturally it does not help much if members of the police themselves transgress the law, by amongst others torturing detainees, or when heads of police occupy prison cells. But if a police member, and thus a representative of the authority of the state, orders a protester to make way or not to cross a picket line, the order must be obeyed. That distinguishes a democracy from anarchy. 

Leadership: Thirdly, there is little, if any, evidence of decisive and consistent leadership by politicians and union leaders in order to promote respect for the law and the authority of the state.

On the contrary, to give but one example, a recognised leader such as Winnie Madikizela- Mandela sends out the message that metro police members who do their work must be suspended because it was her car that was stopped.

There is a direct line of lack of respect for the law and authority to leaders who place votes at Mangaung above right and justice. If keeping quiet serves self-interest, they will keep quiet, even if it cleaves away the corner stones of the rule of law. 

Our leaders do know what is right. It is hoped that the Farlam commission will publicly remind the government, unions and mining companies of their responsibilities.
By Press Release 16 Oct, 2012
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By Press Release 02 Oct, 2012

SAPU president, Mr Mpho Kwinika, was invited by the Brazilian Confederation of Police to attend an international meeting of police unions from countries that previously hosted soccer world cup events. The purpose of the meeting is to learn from the experience of other police agencies and police unions.

The South African Police Service (SAPS) and consequently also the police unions were faced with similar challenges when FIFA, in 2004, announced that South Africa would host the Soccer World Cup in 2010. The security establishment in South Africa, in particular the police, were faced with the daunting responsibility to develop, resource and implement a security operation that would ensure the safety of everyone during this four-week event. The announcement came at a time when crime in South Africa, and in particular violent crime, had just peaked at its highest levels. However, over the next few years until 2009, the year immediately before the World Cup, overall crime rates slowly decreased to a level approximately 24% below that of 2003. Violent crimes, however, such as house robbery, business robberies and vehicle hijackings started to increase at an alarming rate. For example house robberies increased by 100% and business robberies by almost 300% from 2004/05 and 2008/09. Moreover, the national victim surveys, conducted between 1998 and 2007, showed a 148% increase in the number of people who indicated that they felt unsafe walking in their own areas after dark.

In addition to the obvious crime threat, the run-up to the tournament also saw a renewed fear of terrorism and its potential destructive impact on the World Cup. It was generally recognised that the terror threat was not so much against South Africa as it was against the event and in particular against countries involved or associated with the war (at the time) in Iraq. Some of the concern was prompted by the attack on the bus carrying the Togo national soccer team during the Africa Cup of Nations in January 2010, and the arrest in May of a Saudi army officer with links to al-Qaeda in connection with an alleged plot to launch attacks during the World Cup against teams from countries that supported the war in Iraq. In a briefing to the United States Congress Counter-Terrorism caucus, also during May, the bold statement was made that there was an 80% chance of such a terror attack happening during the World Cup in South Africa.

This was the biggest event ever hosted in South Africa and also the biggest security challenge for the SAPS amidst its already taxing crime fighting responsibilities. It was going to be only a month-long event – but planning had to take into account the securing and holding period immediately before the start of the World Cup and the mopping-up immediately after the event. The police and other security structures knew that it would be an intense period for policing and security, and given that the eyes of the world would be focused on South Africa, excellent planning, preparation and execution would be required. The additional burden of the 2010 security operation would have to be carried primarily by members of SAPS and it was the responsibility of unions such as SAPU to ensure both that the police performed their constitutional obligations diligently and efficiently and that the rights of their members were at all times respected and their grievances attended to.

The challenge for SAPU and other unions therefore was how best to serve the interests of its members and at the same time honouring the basic values and obligations for policing enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa. This presentation, therefore, aims to highlight some of the main aspects of the overall security operation, and also some of the pertinent implications this has had for members of SAPS and how SAPU, as the leading police union, was able to ensure that the rights of its members were upheld.

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