Come January, men and women in the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) will have another avenue for service-related grievances.
The Military Bargaining Council (MBC), Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Defence (JSCD) heard, is in the process of operationalisation. It, a Parliamentary Communication Service statement has it, will be running by the start of next year adding to “efforts to secure the welfare of [national] defence force members”.
The MBC will join the Defence Force Service Commission (DFSC), the Military Ombud and the recognised SA National Defence Union (Sandu) as channels for servicemen and women seeking redress on matters ranging from promotion, accommodation, further education opportunities and salaries, among others.
During an October presentation, the JSCD heard Sandu is recognised as a labour organisation, mustering close to seventeen thousand members. The Parliamentary statement does not indicate if recognition is by the Department of Defence (DoD) or Minister Thulas Nxesi’s Department of Employment and Labour (DEL).
The union’s status was noted during discussion of an agenda item relating to the Defence Force Service Commission (DFSC), in view of progress on operationalisation of the Military Bargaining Council (MBC).
Taking into account Defence and Military Veterans Minister Thandi Modise’s reported assertion to the JSCD that the SANDF needs the DFSC, the JSCD wants “boundary management issues” between the DFSC and MBC be finalised to “limit duplication”.
Sandu, with 16 728 members, does not represent all soldiers and when added to the DFSC’s work complementing that of the MBC, “further analysis” is needed for best possible outcomes, the JSCD statement said.
The DFSC vision of “a world class advisory commission on military conditions of service” is seen as another analysis point to eliminate duplication.
The October JSCD meeting largely repeats recommendations made at one of its June 2022 meetings. That meeting asked for clarification of the “roles and functions” of the DFSC and the MBC to “ensure no duplication of roles that might impact the achievement of better conditions of service”. At that meeting the JSCD warned “overlap or duplication of mandates might cause dual expenses.”