The embattled Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) is returning to its original headquarters in Braamfontein, Johannesburg, in a move sources believe will enable them to rent out Prasa House in Hatfield, Pretoria, to counter its cash-flow woes.
The agency moved its headquarters to Pretoria in 2012, in a move believed to have cost millions at the time, though they would not comment on the costs yesterday.
Prasa would also not say how much the intended move back to their original headquarters would now cost the taxpayer, but moving about 400 staff members, their furniture, equipment and setting up IT infrastructure could easily run into millions more.
Workers say Prasa’s relocation policy states that each worker should receive a R10,000 once-off relocation fee. This will run up a relocation bill of at least R4 million just for the staff’s relocation costs.
The agency apparently hopes to avoid these costs by ferrying the 400-staff contingent between Pretoria and Braamfontein daily, using Prasa buses. The cost of this exercise could nevertheless become astronomical in the long run.
“The (agency) owns Prasa House and the master plan is to rent out the building to improve cash flow but no consideration is given to workers,” a source told The Citizen yesterday.
Workers have apparently been told the board has approved the decision to move the head office, without consulting the workers or unions.
Sources said they would be joined in their move to the Braamfontein building, called Umjantshi House, by the agency’s subsidiaries Intersite and Autopax, currently stationed next to Pretoria station.
The news was broken to stunned workers last Monday by the agency’s head of human resources, Pearl Munthali.
The Citizen has seen an internal communique, dated January 23, titled “Relocation of offices from Hatfield to Braamfontein” calling staff to the meeting.
In the communique, “employees are encouraged to attend this session as it is in their best interest to address any concerns that they may have”.
“We are not given straight answers when we ask what necessitated the move,” an internal source said. “We are told they want to be closer to a railway as they are in the business of rail.”
With no consultation with unions and the fact that workers have settled in Pretoria after the first move, the latest move has been slammed as irregular and inconsiderate.
The majority union at Prasa, the United National Transport Union (Untu), was only informed about the move yesterday, though staff had already been informed over a week ago.
Spokesperson Sonja Carstens said Prasa should have first consulted the unions, as staff members were intimidated by Prasa bosses, and would not have had the courage to confront management.
“We have been receiving calls throughout the day from worried members but we had not been informed. This is not the way to go about it. It is irregular and very inconveniencing because workers were moved to Pretoria and have settled there. They have bought houses and the first term of school has started,” she said.
Carstens said they had requested a meeting with management, saying they would fight the move and that Prasa would have to reconsider this decision.
Prasa spokesperson Nana Zenani confirmed the move, saying it was in the normal course of business that companies moved offices from time to time.
“It is therefore not out of the ordinary that Prasa is in the process of consulting with employees regarding relocating to the premises in Braamfontein at Mjantshi. This, of course, will take into account employees’ individual circumstances and be informed by our policies,” she said.
Zenani said this move was not a new experience for Prasa and its employees as it has moved offices on more than one occasion before.