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Sunday / 14 July 2024
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Major union calls for head of Road Accident Fund CEO

The National Union of Metalworkers in South Africa (Numsa) has called for the resignation of Road Accident Fund (RAF) CEO Collins Letsoalo as it argues that the fund has fallen into a state of disarray under his management.

To that end, Numsa intends to mobilise its members to shut down all RAF offices on Tuesday and march to the offices of the National Department of Transport to hand over a memorandum of demands to the Minister of Transport.

“We are demanding that RAF CEO Collins Letsoalo must be fired because of the disastrous state of the entity. RAF is a public entity whose core function is to compensate victims of road accidents,” said Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim, as per Moneyweb.

“Mr Letsoalo behaves as if he is untouchable, which is why the RAF is in shambles. There is a complete failure to regulate his behaviour, and it seems even the board of the RAF is helpless in the face of his gross incompetence.”

The RAF naturally disagrees with Numsa’s accusations and said that it was not the work of one man that turned the fund into what it is today, but the result of organisational culture.

“An attack on the CEO is unfortunate and unwarranted. The RAF is not a one-man show, it’s an organisation. It is therefore disingenuous to attack one person,” said McIntosh Polela, head of corporate communications at the RAF.

The two entities were locked in negotiations for over five hours on Tuesday evening, with the results thereof yet to be made public.

Six pressing issues

Numsa put forward six issues to the RAF which it said triggered the potential strike action, comprising:

  • RAF outsourcing critical operations to private companies
  • RAF in violation of the Protection of Personal Information Act (Popi Act) because personal information is in the hands of a third party
  • No disciplinary action taken against 200 claims handlers suspended since 2022 due to accusations of fraud by RAF management
  • An “unbearable backlog” of unprocessed RAF claims caused by the lack of claims handlers
  • The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) is seemingly unable to act against Letsoalo
  • Continued implementation by the RAF of organisational restructuring after abandoning the formal, lawful restructuring that was taking place under the auspices of the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation, and Arbitration (CCMA) in February 2023

The union contends that the RAF has outsourced important jobs such as call centre operations to “companies affiliated to the ANC government” and threatened to retrench its own employees who previously ran the call centres.

One of the firms benefitting from this arrangement is Alteram, which scored an RAF tender for call centre services of over R200 million for a period of 13 months.

“Numsa has always argued that the money spent on the outsourced call centre could be reserved for saving jobs, and improving the claims process,” it said

“The employees who were employed in the internal call centre of RAF are now redundant and they will be retrenched by RAF.”

RAF CEO Collins Letsoalo

Numsa further alleges that the RAF’s dire financial state has indirectly violated the Popi Act.

The fund’s continued failure to pay claimants has led to much of its assets being attached by sheriffs of the court to be sold to pay monies owed.

Recently, one of these assets – a server that contained personal details such as claimants’ names, addresses, and ID numbers – was sold off to an unnamed third party without being wiped of its contents, thus leaving sensitive information in the hands of strangers, according to the Union.

“This is a gross violation of the Popi Act Section 19(1) (a), which states that RAF has the responsibility to secure the integrity and confidentiality of all the personal information in its possession,” it said.

Additionally, Numsa claims that there are no safeguards in place at the RAF to protect information being unlawfully distributed.

“If that information is sold to unscrupulous people for fraudulent purposes, the RAF and specifically, Mr. Collins Letsoalo, must take full responsibility,” said Numsa.

The RAF blocked the parliament’s oversight committee in 2023 from entering its offices in Pretoria to investigate these and other alleged violations.

Similarly, Numsa health and safety official Victor Radebe was prevented from accessing the premises to do an inspection of working conditions for union members.

“There have been no consequences for this CEO who is so arrogant that he can openly defy members of parliament, and even officials of a recognised trade union,” it said.

Numsa furthermore states that there have not been any inquiries into the 200 case handlers that were suspended after Letsoalo himself asserted they were colluding with RAF attorneys, without being able to furnish the necessary evidence to back his claims.

As we speak, these employees are still on the RAF’s payroll but are sitting at home awaiting the outcomes of nonexistent investigations.

“If Letsoalo has evidence of corruption, he must produce it, otherwise, these suspensions must be lifted immediately, so that our members can get back to work,” Numsa said.

Due to the mass suspension of workers, the RAF is also dealing with an “unbearable backlog” of claims that must still be processed, and consequently, many victims of road accidents are stuck waiting months or even years for compensation.

With few case handlers remaining in office, each one has approximately 2,000 claims on their profiles and handles seven trials a day.

This workload is far too much for one individual to cope with, which has resulted in a rising number of default judgments issued against the RAF and an immense increase in the fund’s legal and wasteful expenditures.

Finally, Numsa believes that the RAF is following an unlawful restructuring process called the “Culture Fit Assessment” where the roles of current employees are switched up to see if they’ll be a better fit in another position.

While the RAF said that this is part of its 2020-2025 turnaround strategy as approved by the Department of Transport, Numsa maintains that it will result in many workers being declared redundant and eventually being retrenched, with plenty of unnecessary funds being spent in the process.

“We are demanding that the restructuring must stop immediately,” it said.

“If RAF wants to restructure, it must follow a proper process in terms of the Labour Relations Act 189(A), which means there must be consultation with the union.”

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