EAAB faced with strike action

The beleaguered Estate Agency Affairs Board (EAAB) has been subjected to another crisis. This time in the form of a strike by more than half of its staff over salary increases.

The strike, which involves 35 staff members of its total 65 workforce, was launched at 3 pm, today November 11, following a breakdown in negotiations with the staff members union, National Education Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) in reaching an understanding.

Today’s action follows recent reports of the board being in turmoil amid allegations of financial irregularities following the completion of a forensic audit into its affairs. The report is known to be with Mandisi Mpahlwa, the Minister of Trade and Industry.

In a press release issued by the board earlier today, Nomonde Mapetla, CEO of the EAAB, said she regretted the decision of the Newhawu members to strike. “"We have been in extensive negotiations with the union for some time to try and arrive at an understanding between the two parties," she added.

"When I took over as CEO of the EAAB in November 2004, there were no coherent wage policies or job grading systems in place. The result was that salary increases were routinely awarded to all staff members on an annual basis, at an across-the-board rate that was neither market related nor dependent on such essential criteria as merit and performance.

"This unsatisfactory state of affairs obviously led to the existence of certain inequalities as well as the payment of unjustifiably high salaries to staff members," she said.

Mapetla says that the EAAB, with a view to correcting this position, had embarked on a scientifically accountable job grading system. This was accompanied by a comparative salary survey to assess the salary levels in respect of each identified job grading band. "This," she emphasised, "had the full support of Nehawu."

"At the beginning of the year, when initially reviewing the proposed annual salary increases for staff, the view was adopted that the matter should be temporarily put on hold until the finalisation of the job grading exercise and the implementation of an acceptable salary policy for staff members," said Mapetla.

"The findings of the survey, which was handled by independent consultants was that the vast majority of EAAB staff are extremely well-paid. In comparison with the 850 enterprises surveyed, most staff members currently received salaries between 135% and 200% in excess of market related salaries for similar jobs.

"For this reason, the EAAB felt it to be inappropriate for salary increases to be implemented for the current year," she said.

"We have communicated the results of the survey to staff, but unfortunately it has not been favourably received. The EAAB has done its utmost to create an understanding, in an accountable manner, between Nehawu and the EAAB, and deeply regrets the decision to strike.

"Necessary steps are being taken to limit inconvenience to the EAAB's stakeholders as a result of the strike. The core statutory functions of the Board will not in any way be affected. Every effort will be made to resolve the industrial action," Mapetla said.

"I would also like to take this opportunity to confirm that we are aware of the investigation into the EAAB by the DTI and we will work with the government to provide them with whatever information they require.

"There are many aspects of the workings of the Board that require a review, including the Act governing its activities and the amount of the fee paid by estate agents, and we welcome a constructive investigation to better the service we provide to property stakeholders and consumers," she concluded.
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