The National Union of Public Service and Allied Workers represents a membership of 30,000 workers in public health and general public services.
Success Mataitsane, the General Secretary, explaining the union’s main goal, says: “For us it is important that the workers are happy when they wake up in the morning to go to work.” The strategy aimed at achieving this goal is based on four pillars: good working conditions, with particular respect to health and safety, and promoting a pleasant work environment free from racism and based on respect between employers, supervisors and employees, a decent salary, and job security.
Free nurses’ indemnity cover, free funeral cover and 30 per cent reimbursement of the registration fees paid by nurses and other professionals to their respective councils are unique benefits offered by NUPSAW to its members.
The struggle against outsourcing of public services is one of the main challenges the union is facing. Mataitsane explains that, “Security, gardening, cleaning and other services in the public sector were considered non-core services and therefore outsourced to cut costs. Nonetheless, because of the inclusion of independent service providers – the overall cost paid by the public sector is higher while wages and working conditions have declined.” NUPSAW started a recruitment campaign among contract workers aiming at organizing them and fighting together to bring certain outsourced services back in-house.
NUPSAW considers independence from political parties as well as from employers as being a trademark of its approach. In order to represent its members effectively, the union became a finding party to the Independent Labour Caucus (ILC) in 2007, which includes 11 independent unions. The ILC, although it is not a registered federation, is recognised in the South African Public Service Co-ordinating Bargaining Council (PSCBC) and its sectoral councils. The ILC represents 40 per cent of the public servants in South Africa.
NUPSAW is affiliated to the Confederation of South African Workers’ Unions that was established in 2003. NUPSAW is a founding member of this confederation.