Today's Labour News

newsThis 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.

news shutterstockIn our afternoon roundup, see summaries
of our selection of South African labour-
related stories that appeared thus far on
Wednesday, 7 November 2018.


TOP STORY

Woolworths ordered by ConCourt to reinstate Saccawu members 16 years later

BusinessLive reports that the South African Commercial and Catering and Allied Workers’ Union (Saccawu) succeeded on Tuesday in having dozens of employees who were dismissed by Woolworths in 2002 reinstated by the Constitutional Court (ConCourt).  The union approached the top court following a decision of the Labour Appeal Court that only awarded the workers remuneration compensation of 12 months’ pay for being unfairly dismissed when, in 2002, the company sought to convert their contracts from 45-hour-per-week, full-time contracts of employment to 40 hours per week on a flexible working hours system.  In its unanimous ruling, the court found that Woolworths’ argument that it was “not reasonably practicable” to reinstate the employees meant the exercise was a “mere inconvenience”.  The company argued that the posts from which the workers were dismissed had ceased to exist, but the court did not agree, saying:  “They were employed as cashiers and there has been no suggestion that the number of cashiers has decreased.  It is the conditions of employment that have changed and not the positions themselves.”  The court emphasised that the parties were free to resume talks aimed at reaching an agreement on the flexi-time work issue.

Read the full original report by Theto Mahlakoana at BusinessLive


OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH & SAFETY

CPUT mum on labour dispute that 'drove top official to take his life'

Cape Times reports that according to the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT), events that led to its Department of Tourism and Events Management head, Snyman Ohlhoff, taking his own life cannot be discussed in public.  Ohlhoff was embroiled in an ongoing labour dispute with the institution, as conformed by CPUT spokesperson Lauren Kansley.  The Federation of Unions of SA (Fedusa) this week requested Higher Education and Training Minister, Naledi Pandor, to urgently look into the debacle, which the federation believes drove Ohlhoff to ending his life.  Fedusa spokesperson Frank Nxumalo indicated that CPUT management refused to meet the leadership of the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU), which is a Fedusa affiliate.  He said NTEU wanted to understand what had led to its member perceiving no other solution to his dispute with the institution but to end his own life.  Fedusa observed in a statement:  “CPUT continued to keep Ohlhoff under suspension for the past eight months blatantly disregarding the fact that it was referred to the CCMA for arbitration.  He wanted to find resolution and on October 3 he settled the dispute with his employer, hoping for a speedier resolution.”

Read the full original report by Okuhle Hlati at Cape Times. Read Fedusa’s press statement at SA Labour News

Derelict Home Affairs office in Atlantis shut down by Department of Labour

Groundup reports that Department of Labour inspectors sealed off the Home Affairs offices in Atlantis on 23 October‚ after finding the building not suitable for human occupation.  Its derelict state contravened the Occupational Health and Safety Act.  A notice dated 30 October placed on the main entrance door confirmed the closure “due to the conditions of the building”.  Also there was a labour department notice dated 23 October, prohibiting Home Affairs from occupying the building as it threatened the health and safety of persons.  The derelict building is owned by the City of Cape Town and has deteriorated because of neglect.  Home Affairs officials said they had been working in the bad environment for a while.  Labour spokesperson Teboho Thejane said the building was closed because of dysfunctional toilets‚ electricity problems‚ damp walls and ceiling‚ unmaintained fire equipment‚ no drinking water and obstruction of fire exits.  But he added that, after being provided proof that the concerns had been addressed‚ the prohibition notice was revoked on 5 November.  Home Affairs spokesperson Thabo Mokgola confirmed the reopening of the office, indicating that the defects had been fixed over the past weekend.

Read the full original report by Peter Luhanga at GroundUp


LABOUR MARKET / JOBS

Unemployed graduates from Durban march in Pretoria to petition Cyril for jobs

SowetanLive reports that Nkululeko Ndlovu wore his graduation gown on the lawns of Union Buildings in Pretoria on Tuesday to make a statement about his six years' struggle to find a job.  From Ulundi in KwaZulu-Natal, the 28-year old graduated six years ago with a BTech accounting degree and has been unemployed ever since.  On Monday, Ndlovu joined a group of 15 unemployed graduates who boarded a bus from Durban to Pretoria to hand over a memorandum of demands to President Cyril Ramaphosa.  He accused the government of "playing with young people's lives" by offering two-year internship programmes while prospective employers looked for three years’ experience from graduates.  Another graduate, Lindokuhle Khumalo, 24, said he had been applying for employment for four years now with no luck.  “There is no one working at home.  I am now that graduate who sweeps people's floors to put food on the table," Khumalo said.  He pleaded for the president to make plans for unemployed graduates “because depression will kill us.”  A government official accepted the memorandum on behalf of Ramaphosa and promised to respond to the demands after seven days.

Read the full original of this report by Yoliswa Sobuwa at SowetanLive. Read too, Frustrated graduates desperate for jobs, on page 2 of The Star of 7 November 2018


RESTRUCTURING / RETRENCHMENTS / COMPANY JOB LOSSES

SABC Board to appear before parliamentary committee on Tuesday over retrenchments

The Citizen reports that parliament’s portfolio committee on communications resolved on Tuesday that the board of the SA Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) must appear before it next Tuesday to update the committee on the retrenchment process at the public broadcaster.  This was welcomed by the Democratic Alliance (DA), which last week called for an urgent briefing by the SABC board to provide a full update on its retrenchment process.  Due to its financial woes, the SABC announced last week that it envisaged that 981 employees might possibly be retrenched as a result of the restructuring, across all the business units and operations of the broadcaster.  The cuts would also affect 1,200 freelancers out of some 2,400.  The DA’s Phumzile Van Damme said a a skills audit would reveal which skills and jobs at the SABC needed to be retained and which not, and had to be undertaken before retrenchments were considered.  She added:  “It is evident that the SABC board has a lot to answer for and the DA looks forward to using the opportunity on Tuesday to hold the board accountable.”

Read the full original of this report at The Citizen

Eskom Board approves retrenchment process for senior executives

Mining Weekly report that the board at state-owned power utility Eskom has approved a process that could result in the retrenchment of senior executives, the company confirmed on Wednesday.  Eskom said in a statement that, despite efforts to curb expenditure, operating costs had continued to increase dramatically, while output had remained largely unchanged.  “As a result, Eskom’s board of directors has decided to review the company’s organisational design to enhance operational and cost efficiencies.  As such, Eskom’s board has approved a Section 189 process (i.e. retrenchment process) for its executive structure [F-Bands].”  Eskom did not immediately indicate how many employees could be affected by the process, nor did it indicate what level of cost savings were being targeted.  The notice comes amid renewed fears of load-shedding, following a rise in unplanned outages, which has forced the utility to rely more heavily in recent weeks on its expensive open-cycle gas turbines.

Read the full original of this report at Mining Weekly. Read Eskom’s short press release at Eskom News


STATE-OWNED ENTERPRISES

Ramaphosa says there is no plan to sell SAA, siding with Gordhan and leaving Mboweni in the cold

BL Premium reports that President Cyril Ramaphosa has sided with public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan on the future of SA Airways (SAA), rejecting finance minister Tito Mboweni’s contention that it should rather be cut loose.  Just a day after Gordhan signalled that his preference was to nurse the airline back to health, Ramaphosa told parliament on Tuesday that closing it down would destabilise other state-owned entities (SOEs) and the broader economy.  He said the country would not get value if it tried to sell the debt-laden airline, which needed to repay or reschedule about R14bn of debt by March.  "You would have to pay someone to take SAA out of your hands," Ramaphosa said, adding that:  ‘‘If we say ‘shut it down’ it means that the debt SAA carries becomes payable immediately".  That could have implications for other SOEs and could lead to their collapse.  Ramaphosa’s comments and those of ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule earlier in the day represented a rebuke to Mboweni, who returned to government in October.  Magashule said the airline’s future was being dealt with by ministers and "there is not any intention to close down SAA".  Democratic Alliance (DA) MP Alf Lees said it was clear that there were divisions in the ANC government on what to do with SAA.  "Clearly the left hand does not seem to be aligned with the right hand," he commented.

Read the full original of this report by Bekezela Phakathi and Linda Ensor at BL Premium (paywall access)


RETIREMENT FUNDS

Alexander Forbes study shows no let-up in crisis over adequate retirement savings

BusinessLive reports that according to a study by Alexander Forbes, one of the country’s largest pension fund administrators, there are no signs of SA’s retirement savings crisis abating.  In fact, the majority of employees face the possibility of running out of money just a short time into their golden years.  Only 5.17% of people who retired from funds administered by Alexander Forbes this year were able to maintain their standard of living.  The pension fund administrator’s startling figures show people who have retired were, on average, able to get less than a third of what they used to earn — just 28.8%.  More than half actually got less than 20%.  Most did not even buy a retirement annuity, but took out their savings in cash to settle debt and other short-term financial pressures.  This dire state of retirement outcomes in SA echoes earlier reports this year from global consultancy Schroders and 10X Investments.  The Schroders survey showed that South Africans significantly underestimate the proportion of income taken up by the cost of living at retirement.  The survey by 10X showed that 41% of 11.9-million economically active South Africans have no retirement plan in place at all.

Read the full original of this report by Londiwe Buthelezi at BusinessLive


MEDICAL SCHEMES / NATIONAL HEALTH INSURANCE

GEMS finally on track to meet 25% solvency ratio requirement by 2019

BusinessLive reports that the 15-year old Government Employees Medical Scheme (GEMS) expects to meet the regulator’s requirement to have a 25% solvency ratio for the first time next year.  GEMS had 1.833-million members at the end of 2017, and provided cover to just more than half of all eligible public servants.  Its financial stability is crucial to the government’s plans for National Health Insurance (NHI), which envisages GEMS being merged with all the other medical schemes available to public servants.  GEMS has always had a solvency ratio far below the 25% required by the Medical Schemes Act, partly due to it growing its membership base, but also because it provided generous benefits without underwriting.  It did not impose waiting periods on new members, and allowed people to join and quit repeatedly as their healthcare needs ebbed and flowed, compromising its ability to build reserves.  The solvency ratio has since improved, thanks to a raft of changes that include the introduction of underwriting and measures to combat fraud and waste.  GEMS ended 2017 on 15.22% and expects to close 2018 above a 18.2% target.  It anticipates reaching a 25% solvency ratio next year, three years ahead of target.

Read the full original of this report by Tamar Kahn at BusinessLive


DISMISSALS / SUSPENSIONS

Moyane demands that Ramaphosa should reinstate him at Sars, threatens to block successor

ANA reports that former SA Revenue Services (Sars) boss Tom Moyane’s lawyers have written to President Cyril Ramaphosa demanding that he reverse his decision to fire him following recommendations from an inquiry led by retired Judge Robert Nugent.  The lawyers demanded that Ramaphosa withdraw their client’s dismissal letter by Friday, or face another court challenge.  Ramaphosa was also warned to not appoint a replacement for Moyane, as the latter was “to hold that office until his term of office expires or until he is lawfully removed”.  The legal tug of war between Ramaphosa and Moyane started when the president established a commission of inquiry into governance at Sars, headed by Nugent.  Moyane has objected to both the inquiry and a separate disciplinary committee, claiming “double jeopardy” and that he was being prejudiced for being dragged into two parallel processes.  In a letter to Moyane, Ramaphosa said that the interim report from the Nugent commission “paints a deeply concerning picture of the current state of Sars and the reckless mismanagement which characterised your tenure as commissioner of Sars”.  Moyane has turned to the Constitutional Court to challenge the lawfulness of the Nugent inquiry.

Read the full original of this report at The Citizen

Limpopo municipal managers, CFOs who deposited money with VBS Bank suspended

EWN reports that Limpopo Premier Stan Mathabatha has announced the suspension of municipal managers and chief financial officers in several Limpopo municipalities which illegally deposited money with the VBS Mutual Bank.  The premier confirmed that government's initial report showed that 10 municipalities invested about R1.2 billion in the bank.  He said three of the 10 municipalities received their money back from the bank paid with interest.  The Reserve Bank has released a report titled ‘The Great Bank Heist’, which reveals that R1.8 billion was looted by the bank's executives, politicians and a former partner at auditing firm KPMG.

The original of this short report by Clement Manyathela is at EWN

Limpopo director of communications suspended amid allegations of leaking sensitive information

The Citizen reports that Limpopo Premier Stan Mathabatha has suspended the province’s chief director of communications Phuti Seloba.  He has been put under precautionary suspension with immediate effect after allegations were made that he was behind leaks of sensitive information from the premier’s office.  Mathabatha’s spokesperson Kenny Mathiba said Seloba would be given a chance to respond to the allegations levelled against him.  Seloba’s headache started after his alleged secret relationship with EFF Limpopo leader, Jossey Buthane, soured.  Last week, Seloba took Buthane to the Limpopo High Court in Polokwane on charges of defamation.  According to Seloba, Buthane defamed him by posting allegations on Facebook that he was a rapist.  In February, it had been reported that a Botswana woman had accused Seloba of raping her in a hotel, but the case was later withdrawn.

Read the original of this short report by Alex Matlala at The Citizen


SEXUAL HARASSMENT / ABUSE

Commission finds sexual harassment claims ignored by SABC management and unions

ANA reports on the findings released on Tuesday of a commission of enquiry appointed to probe allegations of sexual harassment at the SA Broadcasting Corporation (SABC).  It found that management and unions had trivialised complaints, with the HR department ignoring the implementation of the corporation’s sexual harassment policy.  The commission received 40 submissions and interviewed 11 perpetrators for 10 cases lodged by complainants.  At least 25 SABC managers were interviewed and seven cases lodged by whistleblowers.  Commissioner Mfanozwele Shozi said SABC managers covered up for perpetrators, leading to the victimisation of complainants who were forced to work alongside their perpetrators.  The complainants ended up leaving the SABC due to undue pressure and inefficiencies by management, he said.  He added:  “Human resources did not do what it was supposed to do and follow SABC sexual harassment policy… the cases were badly handled by SABC human resources.  They would not follow policy but deviate and opt to address [the] issue through talking.”  Of all the cases that were reported, no perpetrator was suspended or fired.  Moreover, all complainants except for two were freelancers, “showing how the power to hire and fire freelancers corrupted certain people in the SABC,” commission chair Barbara Watson noted.

Read the full original of this report at The Citizen. Read too, Sexual harassment cases at the SABC swept under the carpet, commission finds, at News24

Staffer at Centre for Applied Legal Studies at Wits facing claims of sexual harassment quits

News24 reports that a staff member at the University of Witwatersrand-based Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS) has resigned before a hearing into sexual harassment allegations against him could go ahead.  "The Gender Equity Office (GEO) has concluded its preliminary investigation into the allegations and referred the matter to a formal disciplinary hearing.  A few days later, and prior to the hearing, the accused staff member resigned," CALS confirmed in a statement on Tuesday.  The complaint was originally made to the GEO at the end of August by a member of the Wits community.  The unit then proceeded with a formal complaint process, with the woman's consent.  CALS said it felt it was necessary to issue a statement, considering the prevalence of sexual harassment in academia and places of employment.  The centre said it wanted to assure civil society that it acknowledged its role in dealing openly with sexual harassment to create a safe and supportive space.  "We also acknowledge an ongoing responsibility to reflect on our own attitudes and understanding of sexual harassment and commit ourselves to learning more about this and how we can contribute to challenging this systemic problem."

Read the full original of this report by Canny Maphanga at News24

 


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