Susan Shabangu. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON
Susan Shabangu. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON

The strike by workers at the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) has been called off, averting yet another disruption at the crisis-ridden agency.

This follows a court order compelling Sassa and the Public Service Association (PSA), the majority trade union at Sassa, to begin wage talks.

Although not all striking workers were involved in the payment of grants, the agency also had to calm the fears of grant recipients following system failures and withdrawal cards not functioning.

Sassa said this was caused by technical glitches in the system migration from Cash Paymaster Services to the South African Post Office, which will be responsible for cash payments from October.

Social Development Minister Susan Shabangu applied for an urgent court interdict at the Labour Court in Johannesburg on Wednesday in a bid to stop workers from continuing with the strike.

Judge Hamilton Cele ordered the parties to start negotiations within seven days in terms of the provisions contained in the Labour Relations Act and the South African Social Security Agency Act and that the workers return to work on Thursday.

The PSA embarked on the action following the agency’s "refusal" to recognise collective bargaining structures and processes, making it impossible for the union to negotiate wages on behalf of its members.

Sassa spokesman Kgomotso Diseko told Business Day that the agency would abide by the court decision.

The negotiations would include ministers from the Treasury and the departments of social development and public service and administration, Diseko said.

"The ruling brings a lot of clarity to a lot of issues and a source of conflict," he said.

The PSA’s general manager, Ivan Fredericks, said that although the court ruling vindicated the union, the process would amount to wasteful expenditure by Sassa and the social development minister.

"The whole process from the strike actions to the court proceedings could have been averted should Sassa have agreed to follow procedure and negotiate in the relevant forum, which is the Sassa National Bargaining Forum," he said.

"The PSA attributes this victory to the 17-million grant recipients who were compromised by Sassa and the minister of social development," Fredericks said.