Africa-Press – Eswatini. All managers in the civil service will from now be represented by the Eswatini Principals Association (EPA) in negotiations with the employer.
This development was confirmed by the Principal Secretary (PS) in the Ministry of Public Service, Sipho Tsabedze, yesterday. The PS was sought for comment following allegations that there were two negotiations running concurrently, which sought to address the welfare of civil servants. Tsabedze said the EPA had constituents in management and would be negotiating for them. In light of this, the PS was asked what had changed from the normal circumstances, wherein the management of the civil service, inclusive of politicians, benefitted from the joint negotiation forum (JNF), and also if this was a new strategy by government.
The JNF is constituted the government negotiation forum (GNT), which represents the employer (government) and representatives of civil servants, who are public sector union (PSUs) of Swaziland. Tsabedze said this was not a new strategy; but the EPA had registered through the office of the Labour Commissioner and subsequent to that, had sought recognition from the Ministry of Public Service. The PS said the entity met the requirements and were hence recognised by government. He also acknowledged that when the EPA registered, they were doing so to be recognised as an entity that represented principals (head teachers).
“It’s new that we have a staff association and given that they represent managers, they do not negotiate in the same table as unions (PSUs). This is allowed in law and it happens in many organisations wherein junior staff is represented by unions and management is represented by staff associations,” Tsabedze said. Following this, the PS was asked if this meant that EPA would represent all managers in the civil service or more staff associations would be formed to represent their constituents. Tsabedze said: “It is not possible for PSUs to form a staff association just like politicians do not negotiate with government on their welfare.” He said at the moment, other managers could seek to form staff associations. The PS said: “I think when a staff association represents management, all other managers if there is an agreement concluded between the pair, it would not be exclusive to the former.”
Tsabedze said all the other managers would benefit; however, it became cumbersome to extend the benefits to other managers who were not eligible to being part of the staff association.
He said for now, because there were no other staff associations, those in management would get the benefits of what was concluded upon by the employer and EPA. It is worth noting that from time immemorial, decisions taken during the JNF were binding to all civil servants, inclusive of politicians, judges, Boards and commission members. This is despite that there are legal documents addressing the remuneration of politicians.
Meanwhile, following this development, EPA President Welcome Mhlanga said they were set to meet the GNT to discuss the modalities of their engagement and further present the agenda of their members. He said: “We are a principals association.” On the other hand, the President of the Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT), Mbongwa Dlamini, said this was taboo to them. He said what they were aware of was that all negotiations regarding the welfare of civil servants were dealt with in the JNF. “Head teachers are supervisors and not managers, which is why we also have them in our national executive committee (NEC). What is special about the separate negotiations by the head teachers to have their own JNF?” he asked.
It is a known fact that SNAT also has within it an association representing deputies and head teachers known as Swaziland Association of Schools Administrators (SASA).
It is worth noting that in recent months, the PSUs have been raising concerns of union bashing by the employer such that during the 2022 mid-term conference of NAPSAWU, it was said the employer was writing letters to workers demanding that they resign from the organisation, as they were not supposed to be members. This was said to have been done without even being considerate of the provisions of the law. However, the PS in the Ministry of Public Service had been adamant in stating that there was a recognition agreement with PSUs, which also listed civil servants who cannot be part of unions. Tsabedze said there were public service employees who joined unions while they were still junior but as they were promoted, they reached a level wherein they could not be part of unions anymore. He said those that were in this predicament were informed.