Union sharks caught

Union sharks caught

Newspapers are full of stories of crooks finding ways of milking unsuspecting victims. But trade unions and their members are not immune from this scourge.

Cosatu municipal workers trade union – Samwu – has recently fired ten organisers and demoted a number of shop stewards to ordinary members. Samwu says the organizers and shop stewards misled workers into taking out loans from microlender, GEMS. This despite the fact that First National Bank (FNB), in terms of an agreement with Samwu, offered better interest rates.

Once the loan deal was signed, the officials and shop stewards reaped rich rewards on the backs of unsuspecting workers. Some got money to repair their cars, splashed out with their entertainment allowances and received unlimited tanks of free petrol.

Others received an estimated R30 000 to R40 000 per month for their underhand business.

But for general secretary, Roger Ronnie, getting the officials and shop stewards disciplined and finding them guilty was not a pleasant task. It took four years of gathering evidence during which time those accused “turned it into a political issue,” says Ronnie. “I was personally accused of driving an ultra left agenda to rid the union of the ANC.”

A number of the accused wrote to the ANC claiming that they were loyal ANC cadres who didn’t support the general secretary’s agenda for the union and that was why they were being targeted. When the Scorpions started their own investigation into the matter, the accused comrades wrote to the Public Protector claiming that the Scorpions were Ronnie’s personal protectors.” It’s just another way in which politics and corruption are used to mislead the organisation,” says Ronnie.

Workers to be reimbursed

But because of Samwu’s efforts, workers who took out loans from the union sharks will be reimbursed. In terms of a High Court Judgment, GEMS must pay back millions of rands to workers.

It must pay each member who took a loan from GEMS after August 1 1999, the difference in repayments between a loan a member might have taken with FNB and the GEMS loan over the period of the loan.

And all is not rosy for those accused either. They have been charged and are out on bail. Their hearing has been postponed until next year.Meanwhile Samwu is busy setting up a savings and credit cooperative for the entire union to encourage members to save, to give its members access to better interest rates if they need loans and to ensure that sharks like GEMS cannot again penetrate the union.

If you know anyone that was (or is) a municipal worker and Samwu member and could have taken a GEMS loan they can phone GEMS (African Bank) on 011 256 9106. Or they can phone the nearest Samwu office for more information on how to lodge their claim.

Rail negotiations reach stalemate

Hopes that the metrorail problem in the Western Cape reported on in the last Numsa News was resolved, have been dashed again.

At the October 28 meeting to finalise implementation of the demands, solid commitment from metrorail failed to materialise.As Numsa News went to print, the region was planning a march on November 25 to highlight their demands

The unions are demanding:

more safety on trains – the repairing of windows and ensuring that trains can only depart once train doors are closed.
Maintenance of signaling equipment.
Opening of other railway lines that would link workers in Khayelitsha directly with Simonstown.

Government puts some woema back into taxi recapitalisation

After many months of inaction around taxi recapitalisation, the government has just announced changes to its plan.Although taxis transport close to 70% of commuters on a daily basis, the government says it does not have the money to move to the bigger 18-35 seaters. Instead from early next year it will:

introduce safety precautions for specific vehicles according to different routes
give a once-off scrapping allowance to legal operators or registered minibus taxis
put pressure on provinces to continue with the registration of taxis.