Members of the Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (Popcru) warn of a national shutdown should their grievances fall on deaf ears. Popcru members came out in their numbers to march to the Union Buildings on Tuesday to protest police fatalities, high crime rates and demand better wages.
The union recently rejected a 3% wage increase offer tabled at the Public Service Coordinating Bargaining Council and called for a higher increase and better working conditions. Members who agreed to speak anonymously said they wanted a higher danger allowance.
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“We want the government to provide us with the resources to help us safeguard the community,” one said. The members also said their pay was inadequate.
“By the 10th of the month, I am broke. So, we go out there to fight crime while we struggle to make it through the month,” one member said. The members said they were also seriously understaffed.
One union member, DP Marumamu, said: “The shift system is not ok. We have been fighting for a system which is both suitable and beneficial for all of us. But our employers don’t want to come to the table and discuss it with us.”
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Marumamu added that the employer took the employees to court to challenge the ruling for an increase.
“Now the employer wants to give us 3% that was already due to us. Every two years, we got the pay progression we qualified for, but now this,” he said.
“During the weekends, we are very unsafe on the premises because we are short-staffed as the other shift is not there. You experience problems and security issues because the offenders know that we are understaffed and they start doing things that require maximum security,” he said.
Marumamu said they wanted their employer to listen to them.
“If they don’t listen to us, after this we are going to embark on a national shutdown. Traffic, the South African Police Service (Saps), correctional services, everything will come to a standstill,” he said.
Molabatheni Makate also said they needed more boots on the ground.
“The prisons, Saps and traffic are all understaffed and as a result crime is not dealt with as quickly and the responses are slower than normal,” he said. Makate said the problem was too big for the police because unemployment had led to crime.
“Maybe it will go better if unemployment is reduced,” he said.
Criminologist professor Jaco Barkhuizen said the police budget was being misspent.
“I understand why Popcru rejected the 3%, seeing as the consumer price index and the interest rate is way above 3%,” he said. Barkhuizen said the majority of the police budget went to salaries.
“Salaries should be reviewed. Who are we paying to do what? Are they doing their jobs? Are they earning their salaries,” he asked.
Barkhuizen said looking at the high crime rate, it could be argued that officers were being paid to sit in offices and do nothing.