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TODAY'S LABOUR NEWS

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This news aggregator site highlights South African labour news from a wide range of internet and print sources. Each posting has a synopsis of the source article, together with a link or reference to the original. Postings cover the range of labour related matters from industrial relations to generalist human resources. The postings for the current month are below, while those from previous months can be accessed in the Archives section.

Last Update -Monday 21 April 2014, 12:08

Strike-hit platinum producers expected to meet with Amcu on Tuesday

boardroomtableNegotiations between platinum producers Anglo American Platinum (Amplats), Impala Platinum (Implats) and Lonmin and the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) are expected to resume on Tuesday following a revised wage offer tabled for the striking mineworkers.  Implats spokesman Johan Theron said on Monday his company has not received formal feedback from Amcu since the new offer was made last week.  He commented that "It is not so easy for Amcu to consult their members over the long-weekend.  We will have to wait and see how we will progress on negotiations from tomorrow when we meet again."  Amplats spokeswoman Mpumi Sithole said her company would also be part of the meeting, to be facilitated by the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA).  Lonmin spokeswoman Sue Vey could not be reached for comment.  Thousands of Amcu members downed tools on 23 January to push for a basic monthly salary of R12,500.

Nehawu cries foul as DGs score in salary hikes

nehawu80Mogomotsi Magome reports that, according to the latest salary scales published by Public Service Minister Lindiwe Sisulu, directors-general and heads of state agencies will receive a 5.7% increase, meaning that the highest-earning DGs will earn a comprehensive annual pay of R1.7m.  Although they will still earn far less than their counterparts in the private sector, the salary increase means that they will earn nearly as much as some deputy ministers.  Deputy DGs will earn just above R1.3m, chief directors will be getting just over R1.1m, while directors in departments will earn about R964,000.  The salary levels apply to accounting officers and other senior public servants in government agencies, including Statistics SA, SARS, the SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) and the SAPS.  The National Education Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) this week called for a moratorium on salary increases for senior managers, ministers and deputy ministers in light of increasing unemployment and a tough economic climate.  Spokesman Sizwe Pamla said continued salary increases for senior managers and politicians “fly in the face of how they motivated for workers to accept a multi-year agreement on public servants’ wage increases”.  “It is our view that they are already earning ridiculously high salaries.  The argument that we need to pay qualified people a lot of money to keep them in the public service is extremely flawed,” he stated.

WAU continues to transport platinum members to work

SABC News reports that the newly formed Workers Association Union (WAU) says it has continued to transport its members to work, as the crippling strike in the platinum sector enters its third month.  Members of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) embarked on a protected strike on 23 January at Anglo American Platinum (Amplats), Impala Platinum (Implats) and Lonmin and concerns have been raised that the non-striking workers are being intimidated when they try to get to work.  WAU spokesperson, Thebe Maswabi, said the union has people phoning daily at their office regarding assistance to go back to work.  “We have a place in town where we take these people we know that they will be safe.  Our place has security even police assisting us, transport is available for people on different shafts,” he claimed.

Miners’ bank Ubank reeling from platinum strike

ubankThekiso Lefifi reports that Ubank, formerly Teba Bank, is reeling from the effects of the 13-week strike in the platinum-mining sector.  Some two-thirds of the bank’s 400,000 customers are mineworkers.  The largest union in platinum mining, the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu), is on strike at Anglo American Platinum (Amplats), Impala Platinum (Implats) and Lonmin.  Most of Ubank’s platinum miner customers have had no income for two months, so most of them have been unable to service their loans.  The bank’s CEO, Luthando Vutula, summed up what is happening to his company as “not good”.  The bank, which has a loan book of close to R1bn of which 80% is loans to mineworkers, and a R4bn balance sheet, has stopped lending to mine employees who cannot meet their repayments.  The bank is also restructuring its customers’ loans.  Its position is complicated by the fact that one of the National Union of Mineworkers’ leaders sits on the bank’s board of trustees and there have been reports of Amcu claiming that Ubank is a NUM business.  Ubank has met with Amcu’s leaders to clarify the bank’s stance, and discuss the effects of the strike on its customers’ financial arrangements.

  • Read this Business Times report at BDLive

Ramaphosa’s Cosatu truce in jeopardy if charges against Vavi are dropped

cosatu thumb medium80 102Mogomotsi Magome writes that the truce brokered by ANC deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa in embattled Cosatu is hanging by a thread as there are still intentions in some quarters to get rid of general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi and the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa).  Ramaphosa’s intervention, on behalf of the ANC, is supposed to see the Cosatu leaders suspend hostilities for 30 days – until the May 7 elections have passed.  While both Cosatu and the SA Communist Party (SACP) officially expressed their support for the intervention following a bilateral meeting, Sunday Independent understands that the SACP is in favour of the intervention as long as it does not include the dropping of charges against Vavi or letting Numsa off the hook.  Leaders of the tripartite alliance have refused to respond to the question of whether Ramaphosa’s intervention could include the dropping of charges against Vavi and the putting aside of the possible suspension or expulsion of Numsa.  One (unnamed) Cosatu leader said that dropping the charges against Vavi would be “problematic” as disciplinary processes against the employee he has been charged with having sex with at the federation’s headquarters were under way.

Car repos and desperation in Rustenburg, the now stricken boom town

rustenburgIsaac Mahlangu writes that the three-month platinum mine strike has brought the North West town of Rustenburg to its knees.  Reports of further job losses, shop closures and a growing number of car repossessions have compounded the bleak picture of a town once hailed as SA’s fastest-growing economy.  For informal traders, business is very bad and shutting up shop is becoming a reality.  Wesbank spokesman Rudolph Mahoney said:  “On the retail side, we have observed a significant increase in both arrears and repossessions in the Rustenburg area.  On the corporate side (which typically lags the retail market), we are now starting to observe an increase in the arrears.  It is therefore evident that both arrears and repossessions are much higher in the Rustenburg area than in the rest of the country.”  The usually buzzing Platinum Square and Waterfall shopping malls were virtually deserted on Wednesday.  In the small town of Marikana, 35km away, the grim picture of empty pockets and hungry stomachs is impossible to ignore, with desperation etched on the faces of informal traders and striking miners.  Many of the workers have resorted to begging on the streets   Short term money lenders are not issuing new loans.  Economist Mike Schüssler commented it would take Rustenburg “years to recover.”  The setback will also reverberate in the Eastern Cape, from where many of the miners come.

  • Read this report on page 11 of Sunday Times of 20 April 2014
  • Read too, Staking hou ramp in vir hele Suid-Afrika, at Sake24

Suspended head of Government Employees Pension Fund fights auditors’ report

gepfBloomberg News reports that John Oliphant, suspended principal executive officer of the R1.2 trillion Government Employees Pension Fund (GEPF) over the award of an advertising contract, has disputed the findings of an auditor’s report that he acted irregularly.  He was suspended in October pending a disciplinary inquiry for contravening GEPF policy when he approved increasing the contract fee for the winning bidder, Mother Russia, to R2 million from R531,555, according to a PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP report.  “This is a matter of dispute at the hearing,” Oliphant said this week, adding that he was on leave when Mother Russia was appointed in September 2012.  “I only became aware of possible irregularities in their appointment in February 2013, at which point I stopped all the activities regarding Mother Russia and initiated an investigation,” he claimed.  The disciplinary hearing is due to take place between April 23 and 25, Oliphant reported, adding that he has “pleaded not guilty.”  Adri van Niekerk, head of the GEPF’s secretariat, was also suspended because of irregularities related to the tender.  She has since pleaded guilty and has been reinstated.  Arthur Moloto, chairman of the GEPF, and PwC’s Sanchia Temkin declined to comment.

Amplats pleads with Amcu to seriously consider revised wage offer

angloamerican fullMia Lindeque reports that Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) has pleaded with the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) to seriously consider a revised wage offer placed on the table, which the producer hopes will bring the union's financially crippling strike in the platinum sector to an end.  Strike-hit Amplats, Impala Platinum (Implats) and Lonmin have raised their offer to a minimum salary of R12,500 per month by July 2017.  Amcu members still have to decide whether they are satisfied with the new offer or whether they will continue striking.  Amplats spokesperson Mpumi Sithole stated: “Our employees, their families and communities are struggling and the companies are also losing revenue and production each day that the strike continues.”  She said the industrial action was making it very difficult for the company to return to profitability.

  • Read this report at EWN

Amcu expected to take revised platinum wage offer to member

EWN reports that leaders of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) are expected to take a new wage offer to its members as soon as possible in an attempt to bring an end to the platinum sector wage strike, which is in its 12th week.  Anglo American Platinum (Amplats), Impala Platinum (Implats) and Lonmin raised their offer to a minimum salary of R12,500 per month by July 2017.  To achieve this, the employees’ cash remuneration (comprising basic wages and holiday, living out and other allowances) would rise annually between 7.5% and 10% across the various bands of employees, with relevant allowances rising in line with inflation.  By implementing these increases by July 2017, the cost to company for the lowest paid underground employee would be in excess of R 17,500 per month (R210,000 per annum).  The cost to company includes cash remuneration, medical, retirement, overtime and bonus provisions.  Longer term issues such as labour migrancy and living conditions will be handled through company-level joint task teams.

  • This report is at EWN

Amcu spends R4m on buses to get striking miners home for Easter

Buses organised to ferry striking platinum miners home over the Easter long weekend would travel to different provinces and go as far as Maputo, Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) president Joseph Mathunjwa said on Thursday.  Amcu members have been on strike since 23 January at the operations of platinum producers Lonmin, Impala Platinum (Implats) and Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) in Rustenburg, North West, and Northam in Limpopo.  At least 100 buses had been acquired at a cost of over R4 million to transport miners to their homes free of charge, following months of no work resulting in no pay.  Mathunjwa said local branches would be tasked with verifying the credentials of those boarding the buses to ensure they were Amcu members.  The miners are expected to return after the Easter long weekend.  A strike fund had also been set up by Amcu to assist miners' families to survive as the strike wears on.

Numsa tight-lipped on its agenda for CEC meeting

numsaThando Kubheka reports that the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) has remained tight-lipped about the agenda for its upcoming central committee (CEC) meeting next month.  The Sunday Independent reported on Sunday that, according to a draft secretariat report for the meeting, the union has reiterated that President Jacob Zuma should resign and is preparing itself for life outside labour federation Cosatu.  The union is facing suspension from Cosatu for its decision not to support the ANC in next month’s elections.  It has been critical about the ANC’s policies in recent months and has hinted at plans to form a new party in the near future.  But, Numsa’s general secretary Irvin Jim has refused to discuss the agenda for the CEC meeting.

  • This short report is at EWN

Bloemfontein’s Universitas Academic Hospital on brink of crisis due to staff resignations

healthcare thumb100 Prega Govender reports that mass resignations of doctors and medical specialists at Bloemfontein’s Universitas Hospital have reached “crisis level” and are threatening to jeopardise patient care.  Many say the problem lies with the poor managerial style of the hospital’s new chief executive Dr Sehularo Gaelejwe.  Staff are particularly concerned about the cardiology department, which is on the brink of collapse as the remaining two specialists are about to leave.  There are also fears that the training of doctors could be severely compromised because Universitas is a teaching hospital for medical students from the University of the Free State.  Dr Deon Menge, immediate past president of the South African Medical Association in Free State, said the province struggled to attract doctors and that health in the province was in a desperate situation.  But, provincial health department spokesman Mondli Mvambi denied that patient care, teaching and research would be compromised by the recent flood of resignations.  He said recruitment, which included headhunting, was taking place continuously to replace staff who left.

  • Read this report on page 2 of Sunday Times of 20 April 2014
  • See too, Crisis looms at Bloemfontein academic hospital, at News24

Nzimande wants answers from culture, tourism and sport training authority Cathsseta

cathssetaAthandiwe Saba writes that money has gone missing, contracts are unfulfilled and board members at the Culture, Arts, Tourism, Hospitality and Sport Sector Education and Training Authority (Cathsseta) are at war.  Now Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande is demanding answers.  He has written to the authority’s chairperson, Advocate Brenda Madumise, asking her and the board to respond to the contents of a damning internal report by audit firm Grant Thornton.  The report, commissioned after the minister received an anonymous email from employees, contains accusations of power abuse and nepotism directed at Cathsseta CEO Mike Tsotetsi.  Three staff members told City Press that morale was “down”.  “Very few projects can be undertaken because there is no cohesion between the parties that are supposed to sign off on projects, which are supposed to upskill the youth,” said one staffer.  Others said it was important for Nzimande’s department to intervene.  Tsotetsi said he was not in a position to respond to the allegations because the board was not readily available to provide answers.

Numsa reiterates that Zuma must resign; prepares itself for life after Cosatu

numsaAmy Musgrave reports that the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa), in a draft secretariat report for its central committee meeting next month, says the ANC is part of the problem in Cosatu because of its anti-worker policies and reiterates its call for President Jacob Zuma to resign.  The union will approach former cabinet ministers and others who have fallen out with the ANC for advice on the way forward, including Jay Naidoo, Ben Turok, Ronnie Kasrils and Pallo Jordan.  Numsa has accepted it is likely to be expelled from Cosatu for its decision not to support the ANC in the forthcoming elections and work around the formation of a workers’ party will now begin in earnest.  But, the report says Numsa will do everything it can to challenge any Cosatu decision to remove it from the federation.  The secretarial report also opines that there is little chance of Cosatu changing its mind on suspending its general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi again, nor of adopting a militant programme which would see it alienating itself from the ANC.  The Numsa secretariat claims the only reason the union has not yet been suspended or expelled from Cosatu is to protect Cosatu’s second deputy president, Zingiswa Losi.  Numsa and some other affiliates believe Losi should no longer be a Cosatu national office bearer because she recently resigned as a Numsa shop steward.

Fawu weighs up legal options over planned ABI job cuts

abiReuters reports that the Food and Allied Workers’ Union (Fawu) says it's weighing up its legal options regarding the planned job cuts at SABMiller's Amalgamated Beverage Industries (ABI) soft-drinks bottling unit in South Africa.  ABI accounts for about 60% of Coca-Cola sales in SA and employs about 3,600 workers.  The company says its plan to cut 400 jobs is part of its restructuring process.  But, the union claims the layoffs at one of the biggest bottlers and distributors of Coca-Cola brands in the southern hemisphere will be much higher at 1,400.  Fawu has called an urgent meeting with company executives.  ABI says the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) will facilitate the consultation process with Fawu.

Former judge praises move by Wits to scrap ‘inadequate’ undergraduate law degree

wits2 thumb medium90 111Botho Molosankwe reports that retired Judge Bernard Ngoepe, who is now the tax ombudsman, hopes that universities will follow the lead of the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) and scrap the undergraduate four-year LLB degree, which he has called a “glorified BProc” (the previously phased-out Baccalaureus Procurationis course).  "They took what was a BProc degree, added one or two more courses and called it an LLB.  In the olden days, you would not even be allowed to enrol for an LLB without a junior degree," Ngoepe said.  Wits announced this week that it was scrapping the degree, saying it did not adequately prepare students for the legal profession.  It will turn the LLB into a postgraduate programme.  The four-year undergraduate LLB was introduced by former justice minister Dullar Omar to make it more accessible to previously disadvantaged students.  Ngoepe said that the BProc degree should have been retained as an entry point into the profession and students could then have studied further for an LLB degree.  The University of Johannesburg is reported to want to adopt the same approach as Wits, but is worried about how this will affect students financed by the government.

  • Read this report on page 5 of Saturday Star of 19 April
  • A report is also at The New Age

Woman fears for life after Amcu sexual harassment claims

eNCA reports that, with Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) national treasurer Jimmy Gama having admitted to sharing explicit photos with a fellow union member, she has opened a case of sexual harassment.  Fezeka Nyamela, who asked to be identified so that she that she would be recognised if anything suspicious happened to her, says she has lost in faith in the union.  “The main problem was the corruption, and the way some of the people were receiving incapacitation without following procedures."  She decided to cancel her membership, but was met with opposition, with some of her colleagues threatening to torch her car.  Nyamela then approached Gama for help, but she got more than she bargained for.  Gama has indicated that he "deleted those photos a long time ago."  Nyamela has since fled her house and is in hiding, fearing for her life.  Her car has now been torched and she believes she's on an Amcu hit list.

  • Read this report at eNCA
  • See too, Amcu's Gama denies sexual harrassment claim, at EWN

KZN hospital hygiene a worry amid cleaners' strike

kznlogo thumb100 Anelisa Kubheka reported on Thursday that a strike by disgruntled cleaners from the public and private sector could compromise health conditions at government hospitals and clinics in KwaZulu-Natal.  The cleaners downed tools after failed wage negotiations with employers earlier this week.  On Wednesday, about 3,000 cleaners marched from Botha’s Park to the Durban City Hall.  KZN Department of Health spokesman, Desmond Motha, said the department “will definitely intervene should the disruptions continue.  We are paying the service providers.  We expect them to adhere to the prescripts of the Department of Labour when paying their employees.”  The KZN workers, who belong to the National General Workers’ Union (Nagewu), the Health and Other Services Personnel Trade Union of SA (Hospersa) and the SA Transport and Allied Workers’ Union (Satawu), are calling for the same benefits and wages as other cleaners in the country.  The National Contract Cleaners Association (NCCA) had been in negotiations with unions since September last year.  Negotiations deadlocked earlier this month resulting in the provincial strike.  A second round of negotiations would be held on Tuesday at the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration.

R400m of deadly Tongaat mall builder's assets attached in separate matter

eNCA reports that more than R400-million in assets belonging to controversial businessman Jay Singh has been seized by the National Prosecuting Authority.  The move relates to an investigation into four low-cost housing developments built by Singh in Phoenix, north of Durban.  The NPA believes Woodglaze Trading - one of several companies linked to Singh - fraudulently transferred the flats to social housing company, First Metro.  The raid was prompted after an investigation commissioned by the National Treasury.  The construction tycoon is also in the spotlight after the Tongaat mall collapse that killed two people last year.  Attempts to contact Singh and his attorneys were unsuccessful.

ANC backtracks on clause in draft employment equity regulations

ancThe ANC has made a submission to amend a controversial clause around demographics in draft employment equity (EE) regulations, the party's provincial leader Marius Fransman said on Thursday.  "We have actually made a submission not to spike hatred between communities.  We've made a submission to correct that earlier clause, and that is what responsible leadership is," he told reporters in Cape Town.  He went on to say: "We've suggested that that clause can go nowhere because that clause will not stand the test of time.  What we suggested is that it must be a balance between national and provincial [demographics]."  The draft clause proposes that companies which employ more than 150 people would have to use national demographics for top and senior management, and those who were professionally qualified.  The labour department published the EE regulations for public comment in February.  Western Cape premier Helen Zille made it clear earlier this month that her government would oppose the regulations.

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