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, 12 February 2020.


TOP STORY – PENSION BAILOUT FOR ESKOM

Cosatu puts brakes on its Eskom rescue plan as disquiet grows about using pension money for bailout

BL Premium reports that trade union federation Cosatu has put the brakes on talks on a social compact to save Eskom as disquiet grows in organised labour about the implications of using pension fund money to pay down Eskom’s debt.  It is no longer expected that President Cyril Ramaphosa will announce the framework agreement in his state of the nation address on Thursday, but he will report on progress made in talks over the past 10 days with business and labour.  Cosatu’s Bheki Ntshalintshali said on Tuesday there was a feeling among members that the federation should "move slowly and consult" to ensure there would be no confusion on what was being proposed.  Events have moved at speed since early last week when the federation presented a proposal at Ramaphosa’s monthly meeting with business and labour leaders that R250bn of pension money managed by the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) be used to pay down Eskom’s debt.  In return, Cosatu hoped to secure a commitment from the government that Eskom would not be privatised and that no workers would lose their jobs.  The federation argued that pensioners would not lose out in the process as the Government Employees Pension Fund, the investments of which are managed by the PIC, was a defined benefit fund, with benefits guaranteed by the government.  The proposal has caused anxiety in business and the investor community, who fear that if implemented it will open the door to prescribed pension fund assets.  The proposal also provoked negative reaction from the Federation of Unions of SA, the second-biggest union federation in SA.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Carol Paton at BusinessLive (paywall access only). Read too, Business, unions 'agree to give space for the next few weeks’ for engagements on Eskom proposal, at Fin24

Solidarity threatens litigation to stop pension fund bailout for Eskom

BusinessLive reports that trade union Solidarity has threatened litigation should the government implement a controversial proposal to use pension fund money to bail out cash-strapped power utility Eskom.  Union federation Cosatu recently proposed using R250bn of Government Employees Pension Fund (GEPF) money managed by the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) to pay down Eskom’s debt.  This would in return for a range of undertakings by the government, including that no workers at Eskom should lose their jobs and that Eskom not be privatised.  The Cosatu proposal was reportedly supported by President Cyril Ramaphosa and public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan.  However, it was reported on Wednesday that in view of disquiet growing in organised labour about the implications of the proposal, Cosatu was putting the brakes on the issue in favour of more consultations.  Solidarity CEO Dirk Hermann said on Wednesday that Cosatu “putting brakes on this issue means there is a pushback against the whole idea, and we welcome that”.  He advised that Solidarity had sent letters to the PIC and the GEPF demanding that the trustees and the boards of the institutions not accept the controversial plan to finance Eskom.  He indicated further that:  “If Solidarity does not receive such a guarantee, or if a decision is made to implement the controversial Eskom plan, Solidarity will take further legal action, which may include urgent legal assistance.”  Hermann lashed out at what he called “pension capture”, lamenting that it was “not the responsibility of workers to fund bankrupt SOEs”.  Solidarity, the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa), and the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) are recognised trade unions at Eskom.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Luyolo Mkentane at BusinessLive


SAA BUSINESS RESCUE

Numsa threatens another strike if plans to cut jobs at SAA are not halted

EWN reports that the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) says it could go on another strike at South African Airways (SAA) if retrenchments are not stopped.  The union approached the Labour Court on Tuesday seeking to interdict the airline’s business rescue practitioners (BRPs) from implementing job cuts.  The union said its members had already been notified of the looming job losses and that they were paying the price for SAA’s decision to cancel domestic and international flights indefinitely.  When SAA announced in November last year that it planned on implementing a restructuring plan that could lead to job losses, unions downed tools in protest while also demanding wage increases.  The strike left the struggling airline even more crippled and cost the company millions of rand.  Numsa’s general secretary Irvin Jim said SAA could see another strike if it continued with the planned job cuts.  “Our backs are against the wall.  We are talking to anybody who understands the predicament of the terrible situation which workers would be faced with if this airline retrenches workers,” he stated.  While another strike would be detrimental to the sustainability of the airline, it is unclear what it would mean for the business rescue process currently underway.

Read the original of the report in the above regard by Clement Manyathela at EWN


INDUSTRIAL ACTION / STRIKES

Nurses at Durban's Life Entabeni Hospital go on strike over backpay on salary increase

Daily News reports that nurses at Life Entabeni Hospital in Durban embarked on a strike on Tuesday after failing to reach common ground with Life Healthcare regarding backpay.  On Tuesday, nurses protested near the hospital and were expected to continue to do so on Wednesday.  Earlier this month it was reported that nurses at Life Westville and Life Chatsmed Gardens hospitals were ready to embark on a full-blown strike if their request for a wage increase was not met.  According to a Life Healthcare statement, they came to an agreement with Life Westville and Life Chatsmed hospitals after a revised offer of a 6% pay increase was tendered.  Staff at Life Entabeni said they were willing to accept the revised offer on the understanding that they would receive backpay from January.  However, they were informed that they would receive backpay from February.  National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) regional secretary Prince Mthalane advised further:  “The employer is now offering 6%, which it says is going to be effective from February, which we don’t accept.  They must give the increment from January 1.”  Life Healthcare said it was looking for a quick resolution to the stand-off.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Winston Mfeka at Daily News


MINING LABOUR

Gold mining silicosis settlement agreement now effective following opt-out period

Mining Weekly reports that the historic silicosis settlement reached between the Occupational Lung Disease Working Group and the Legal Resources Centre has become effective.  The settlement followed almost five years of negotiations between the working group – representing gold miners African Rainbow Minerals, Anglo American SA, AngloGold Ashanti, Gold Fields, Harmony and Sibanye-Stillwater – and the centre representing the claimants.  The Johannesburg High Court in July last year approved the settlement agreement reached by the parties, but before it could become effective class members were given the right to opt out of the agreement if they so wished.  The prescribed 90-day opt-out period ended on 24 November last year, following which the opt-out submissions were subjected to an independent audit.  The outcome was that only three class members chose to opt out.  The agreement provides for compensation to all eligible gold mine workers, or their dependants, suffering from silicosis and those who contracted work-related tuberculosis.  The working group said on Tuesday that as the agreement was now unconditional, the Tshiamiso Trust could undergo board appointments.  The trust was registered in November last year to oversee the processing of claims and payment of benefits to those eligible.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard at Mining Weekly

Solidarity welcomes Harmony Gold’s acquisition of AngloGold Ashanti’s remaining SA assets

EWN reports that trade union Solidarity on Wednesday welcomed mining company Harmony Gold as the new owners of AngloGold Ashanti’s last remaining SA assets.  The R118 billion gold producer picked Harmony Gold as the buyer for operations.  It said the company was the most suitable party to acquire the assets due to its financial capacity and capability of operating and mining hard-rock.  Harmony Gold will acquire the Mponeng gold mine in Carletonville, which is the world's deepest gold mine, a surface rock dump processing business, and a mine waste retreatment operation for more than R4 billion.  Solidarity general secretary Gideon du Plessis said the takeover would ensure thousands of workers would keep their jobs.  However, he expressed his concern about the growing number of international companies leaving the country’s mining sector.  “The government should seriously look at why companies like AngloGold Ashanti and other leading companies are expending their mining operations outside South Africa.  Clearly there is something chasing them away and I think it’s a big concern, and hopefully to the government as well,” Du Plessis said.

Read the original of the report in the above regard by Veronica Mokhoali at EWN. Read too, AngloGold picks Harmony to buy its remaining South African assets, at Mining Weekly

Exxaro launches Arnot OpCo, with 50% ownership of the mine by former employees

Mining Weekly reports that diversified miner Exxaro Resources on Tuesday officially launched Arnot OpCo, the consortium through which the Arnot coal mine in Middleburg, Mpumalanga, will be owned and managed.  The former employees of the Arnot mine will have a 50% ownership of the mine and will participate in the structure of Arnot OpCo through a trust and Innovators Resources.  Eight former employees started Innovators Resources by approaching Exxaro management following the closure of the mine.  They proposed an agreement for former employees to hold a stake in the mine.  The balance of the mine is owned by coal mining company Wescoal.  Speakers at a ceremony marking the occasion noted that the mine closure had led to upwards of 1,000 people losing their jobs, with ripple effects for the community, as well as other businesses directly and indirectly associated with the mine.  Arnot OpCo will restart the mine and supply coal to Eskom's Arnot power station.

Read the original of the above report at Mining Weekly

Harmony Gold decries violent attacks on gold plants

Mining Weekly reports that Harmony Gold CEO Peter Steenkamp said on Tuesday that the spate of violent attacks on gold smelting plants were of great concern.  There were reportedly 19 attacks on gold facilities last year in which two security personnel were murdered.  Steenkamp said that it was apparent that a number of criminal syndicates had begun robbing gold plants.  “We’ve had attempts on our plants to steal gold.  Gold was stolen at Kalgold.  There was a further attempt at Kalgold and fortunately for us, they didn’t manage to steal anything from the plant, but it is a big concern,” he stated.  Indicating that they had raised this issue with the Minister, he went on to say:  “What we’ve done is to sharpen up on our security.  We’ve spent more than R30-million in capital in the last three years just improving our walls around the plants and making sure we’ve got areas where people can’t get through.  We spend a lot of operating expenditure on improving security around our plants, which has worked because we see that with the last Kalgold attempt, they could not get into the smelt house, so the things we put in place did work for us.”  The Minerals Council SA (previously called the Chamber of Mines) last week called for urgent intervention by the Ministers of Police and of Mineral Resources and Energy to investigate the violent assaults by heavily armed intruders on mining company targets, especially smelt houses.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard and watch a video interview with Steenkamp at Mining Weekly

Other labour / community posting(s) relating to mining

  • Changes to mining Act need work if communities are to finally be heard, at Mail & Guardian


LABOUR MARKET / JOBS / UNEMPLOYMENT

South Africa's youth unemployment rate rises above 40%

Business Report writes that approximately 8.2 million (40.1%) of SA’s 20.4 million young people aged 15 to 34 are not in employment, education or training of any sort.  This was revealed in the latest figures released by Statistics SA in the Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS).  At the same time, the figures showed that the overall unemployment rate remained unchanged at 29.1% in the fourth quarter of 2019 compared to the third quarter.  Economist Mike Schűssler commented that these were not at all good numbers and went on to remark:  “Normally December sees more jobs as retailers and hotels hire temporary workers and agricultural starts major planting season.  Over the last four years South Africa created 121,000 jobs in the last quarter.  Last year we only created 45,000 or about a third of the normal.  He also pointed out that typically in the first quarter “we get the school leavers and graduates entering and many temp holiday jobs fall away.”  With 10.4 million people unemployed in the fourth quarter, Schűssler expressed the fear that the rate could climb again to closer to 30% on the standard definition (people who are jobless, actively seeking work, and available to take a job) and 40% on the broader definition (people who are unemployed and available to work but have not taken steps to look for work).  The Northern Cape recorded the highest rate of young people not in employment, education or training in the fourth quarter of 2019 with 37% unemployed, a 1.6% increase year-on-year.  The Western Cape recorded the lowest, with 26.2% unemployed, a fall of 0.2% year-on-year.

Read the original of the above report by Mwangi Githahu at Cape Argus. Read too, Seasonal work fails to dent the unemployment rate of 29.1 percent, at Business Report

Solidarity blames 'racial mathematics' for unemployment, poor economy

ANA reports that trade union Solidarity said on Tuesday that the latest labour market figures were the result of the SA government's "fixation with racial mathematics when it comes to representivity”.  Statistics SA (Stats SA) announced earlier in the day that the country's official unemployment rate had remained unchanged at 29.1% in the last quarter of 2019.  A breakdown of the fourth quarter figures showed that the number of employed people in the country was at 16.4 million, while the number of jobless stood at 6.7 million.  Solidarity said in a statement that government's remained one of the main causes of poor economic growth and unemployment".  “How can one ever expect to tackle the persistent and pernicious unemployment crisis in our country when policy makers are more concerned with figures such as the economically active population (EAP) used to determine employment equity benchmarks than they are with actual unemployment?" asked Solidarity's head of labour law services, Anton van der Bijl.  In his view, successful countries were those that did not care "about the colour of productivity".  “Our economy has come to a virtual standstill if it is not outright receding.  One of the major factors is that businesspeople are not being afforded the simple opportunity to make their own decisions regarding their workforce,” said Van der Bijl.

Read the original of the above report at Independent News

Other internet posting(s) in this news category

  • Youth unemployment a big concern for SA, says labour analyst, at EWN
  • Ex-Fedusa boss set to create 20,000 jobs, at Business Report


DISMISSALS

Mangaung municipality in Free State fires five officials for illegally selling municipal land

TimesLIVE reports that the Mangaung municipality has dismissed five municipal officials over allegations that they sold municipal land illegally to community members.  Mangaung spokesperson Qondile Khedama confirmed the dismissals and encouraged victims and community members to report anyone who was selling municipal land or flats to the police or municipality.  The action by the municipality came as it intensified its Operation Patala - which translates to "pay up" - to get communities to pay their municipal debt.  Khedama indicated that the municipality would be starting to evict some of the residents who bought land or moved into municipal flats illegally.  “Alternative accommodation is offered to people who are unemployed and can no longer afford to pay rent.  But, they will be subjected to the requirements to qualify for a free informal settlement site.  The sites are available in our informal settlement at Matlharantlheng in Phase 6,” Khedama said.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Noxolo Majavu at TimesLIVE


COMMUTING / TRANSPORT

Prasa places Western Cape regional manager Richard Walker on paid leave

Fin24 reports that the regional manager for the Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa) in the Western Cape, Richard Walker, has been placed on paid leave "while the organisation attends to the numerous challenges in the region."  In a statement on Tuesday, the agency's spokesperson, Makhosini Mgitywa, said Raymond Maseko, who has over 18 years’ hands-on experience in railway planning, infrastructure development, project and product management, and systems engineering strategies, had taken over as acting regional manager in the Western Cape with immediate effect.  Mgitywa said that Maseko's appointment was aimed at stabilising the region and improving performance and added that the Western Cape region had proven to be the "most troubled among all of Prasa’s regions".  It had experienced “multiple challenges and lapses as the operating unit of Prasa Rail Operations, which have led to passengers, commuters and stakeholders losing confidence in the business".  Prasa's fleet of trains in the Western Cape has also been decimated by the burning of carriages.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Jan Cronje at Fin24

Rea Vaya buses back on roads in Soweto after police fired rubber bullets on Tuesday to disperse protesters

TimesLIVE reports that police had to resort to firing rubber bullets to prevent protesting crowds from barricading several roads with burning tyres in Soweto on Tuesday.  Several areas, including Moroka, Nancefield Road and Klipspruit Valley Road, were affected.  Rea Vaya bus services were suspended, leaving scores of commuters stranded.  Motorists were advised to use Chris Hani Road, Khumalo Street or drive through Meadowlands.  Provincial police spokesperson Capt Kay Makubele reported that no arrests had been made and no property had been damaged.  Rea Vaya indicated later on Twitter that buses were back in operation, and apologised for the inconvenience.

Read the original of the above report by Nonkululeko Njilo at TimesLIVE

Taxi drivers blockade roads in Stellenbosch CBD to protest at being pulled over by traffic officials

News24 reports that minibus taxi drivers blocked several roads in the Stellenbosch central business district on Tuesday morning in apparent protest at being pulled over by traffic officials.  Municipality spokesperson Stuart Grobbelaar said drivers illegally closed some roads "as a result of municipal traffic officials enforcing the law by having taxis with outstanding fines and warrants pulled over".  Intersections and roads that were initially affected included Dorp, Adam Tas, Merriman, Bird and Alexander.  Grobbelaar reported that by 12:30, some roads had reopened and traffic was flowing.  Area cleaning crews were also dispatched to clear debris on roads and traffic islands.  Western Cape police spokesperson Sergeant Pholelwa Njara indicated that the taxi drivers had set alight to wheelie bins.

Read the original of the above report by Jenna Etheridge and view a video clip at News24


OTHER NEWS HEADLINES AND ARTICLES

  • Let’s talk about workplace racism, at Mail & Guardian
  • Department of Basic Education to close Nigel school that's been unregistered for three years, at TimesLIVE
  • Guards tied up with shoelaces, electronics worth R4,5m stolen from Midrand school, at TimesLIVE

 


Get other news reports at the SA Labour News home page