Union slams public works programme

Workers whose contracts ended in March are demanding to be reinstated

By Zoë Postman

26 November 2020

NUPSAW members marched in Pretoria Central on Wednesday, demanding that Expanded Public Works Programme workers who lost their jobs in March be reinstated. Photo: Zoë Postman

About 100 National Union of Public Service and Allied Workers (NUPSAW) members marched from Marabastad to the Gauteng Department of Infrastructure and Development in Pretoria Central on Wednesday.

The protesters want the department to reinstate all Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) workers who lost their jobs in March, with an additional eight months back pay. They also demanded that the department set up a task team to discuss permanently employing EPWP workers.

According to the department’s website, EPWP creates job opportunities for poor and unemployed people through the delivery of public and community services. It also provides training.

In its memorandum handed to the department on Wednesday, NUPSAW said the department promised 5,000 EPWP workers they would be trained but not all of them were. Most of the EPWP workers cleaned schools and hospitals, and worked in security and administration.

“EPWP had unacceptably high operating costs and inexplicably opaque overheads. Slavery employment is created but the primary beneficiaries remain well connected, not the poor workers,” read the memorandum.

Solly Malema, national organiser of NUPSAW, said that EPWP contracts were meant to last between 12 and 18 months but there were workers who had been working for eight years.

Malema said that in March 2020, some EPWP workers received an SMS from the department stating that their employment contracts expiring on 31 March would not be renewed. He said this was contradictory to President Cyril Ramaphosa’s plan to protect jobs during the lockdown.

The memorandum was received by Ouma Ngobeni-Sipoya, Deputy Director of EPWP. She promised to respond to the union in seven days.