The social development department has agreed to suspend the biometric enrolment of South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) beneficiaries after a meeting with the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (NEHAWU) on Wednesday

Thousands of SASSA employees embarked on a strike on Wednesday over several complaints, central of which was the biometric system.They said biometrics was a new function they should be paid extra for.

The strike has, however, not yet been called off because the union has to first present the agreement to its members.

NEHAWU general secretary Zola Saphetha said an agreement on various issues came about after a meeting between Social Development Minister Susan Shabangu and union president Mzwandile Makwayiba.

“The meeting went very well. They agreed to suspend the biometrics and revert back to the system… which has always been used,” he said.

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In a joint statement by NEHAWU and SASSA on Wednesday evening, they said the meeting was characterised by robust debates.

“Both parties agreed that issues that led to the strike could have been handled much better and committed themselves to build a more cordial relationship with each other,” the statement read.

“The meeting recommitted themselves to ensuring that beneficiaries are taken care of and treated with dignity. Both parties agreed that a special focus is needed to deal with the consequences of the decommissioning of pay points which has disadvantaged beneficiaries especially those in rural areas.”

The parties agreed that biometrics must be suspended and that functionality on the system must be reversed by Monday.

“An amendment of the KPA’s [Key Performance Areas] of grant administrator will be undertaken and SASSA will also look into the issue of remuneration for any extra added tasks to be performed by workers,” the joint statement read.

Job evaluations

It said job evaluations must be undertaken and Shabangu committed to prioritise a skills audit.

“The Acting [SASSA] CEO apologised for the circulars that he circulated to workers instructing them to bypass biometric enrolment. The circulars will be withdrawn officially and a message will be sent to all SASSA managers across the country in this regard. Equally final warnings issued must then be withdrawn. No disciplinary actions relating to biometrics will be tolerated going forward.”

Saphetha said they have to take the agreement back to their members for a mandate to call off the strike.

“By Monday, the expectation is that workers must be at work. Our demands have been met favourably… but the trade union has to get a mandate.”

Parties agreed that the “no work, no pay” principle will not be applied and that no workers will face punitive measures for participating in the strike.

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