In terms of the Labour Relations Act, No 66 of 1995 every registered trade union must ballot its members before embarking on a strike. Hereunder the exact wording of the Act.
Section 95 (5) (p) The constitution of any trade union or employers' organisation that intends to register must-provide that the trade union or employers' organisation, before calling a strike or lock-out, must conduct a ballot of those of its members in respect of whom it intends to call the strike or lock-out;
A ballot is not secret, only a member’s vote is secret. The reason for that is very simple. It protects a member from victimisation, intimidation and being called a sell-out and other ugly things. It furthermore enables a member as an individual to exercise a right in privacy and to give effect to democracy, where the majority decision will count.
BEMAWU balloted its members several times during this salary dispute. Not only did we do this electronically, but also via a paper ballot. We did this because we cannot accept and consider it as a mandate to proceed with a strike when a mandate was obtained (by the other two unions) in the following circumstances:
· A meeting of all three unions is called jointly, and it is attended by mixed membership (Nothing wrong with the joined meeting, but no means to establish a mandate per individual union)
· No attendance registered is kept of who attended,
· The meeting is attended by between 120 and 150 members out of a possible 2200 members,
· In Cape Town for instance, due to the size of the venue only 3 or 4 people attended,
· At the end of the meeting members are asked, by show of hands who supports a strike, and initially only a few people put up their hands. When the loud ones in the meeting started to shout and look around more people put up their hands. (We do not suggest this method, as an initial indicator does not have its place, but most definitely it can never replace a proper balloting process)
· No other union balloted its members, which off course in unconstitutional (but no longer a legal requirement).
BEMAWU is a professional, technological advanced and democratic union. We at all times attempt to test a decision with the members. At times we as the leadership have to make decisions. Decisions we know is in the best interest of our members. In this salary dispute we have NOT exercised that option to make a decision, but opted to ballot you every time things have changed. All our members have cell phones. Cell phones are used by everyone in modern days for competitions and voting.
To vote via sms have various benefits. Votes can be counted electronically, and is available immediately. The votes are held by someone else, in our instance Vodacom, as it sits on their servers. In terms of the Companies Act they must keep those records for at least a period of five (5) years. It can be accessed at any time and be downloaded for auditing. It is not a 100% ideal, but no system is. Each vote will only reflects a cell number, and not a name. The electronic counting filters out duplicate votes and does not count spoilt votes, i.e when the sms asks to vote “Accept” or “Reject” and you vote “Yes” it will count it as a spoilt vote, because no one would know if the “yes” is for “accept” or “reject”. It is set up to only count one of the key words you are required to sms back. You can vote from any place in the world, and don’t have to be at the meeting to cast a vote.
With the paper ballots we had in this salary dispute only 30% of our members voted. With the electronic voting, at times as much as 70% of members voted.
The voting in this salary dispute was monitored by the negations team and individual members of the National Executive and National Structure of BEMAWU. It will also be submitted to our auditors to report on same in our annual financial statements as to whether the communicated vote is supported by the sms’s received.
Although the voting by sms is a transparent process, we will at all times guarantee that your vote remains secret and we will never tell anyone who is not authorised by law to know how you voted.
To all our new members, welcome to a progressive, professional and efficient specialist trade union.
To management of the SABC, please do NOT think you off the hook. We will continue to engage you and monitor you, more closely as ever before on your fruitless and wasteful expenditure. We will engage you on regradings (from one scale to another) and promotions of our members. We will engage you on the non-existent Human Resource system, in particular the non-existence of a career path. We will continue to publish your underperformance, corruption and wastage of money until the day it stops. Each and every member of BEMAWU will be our eyes and ears and will feed us with every bit of information that is necessary to expose you. We will however not be unfair and we will not publish any defamation, because we are responsible and professional. We will not seek sensation.
(PS. Members, please make sure that we have your latest cell number. If you have lost your cell phone, mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone us during office hours at 0829208669 to establish another means of communication with you.)