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
Thursday, 13 February 2020.


ESKOM DEBT CRISIS

Cosatu calls for alternatives to its proposal on solving Eskom’s debt

BL Premium reports that on Wednesday, union federation Cosatu called on workers and South Africans in general to submit proposals for solving the Eskom debt problem.  The call for submissions followed Cosatu leaders having tabled a plan at a meeting with President Cyril Ramaphosa and business leaders last Monday, in which it was recommended that R250bn of pension money managed by the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) be used to pay down Eskom debt.  Since the talks began there has been growing disquiet in the ranks of organised labour, with some Cosatu union members expressing concerns over the security of their pensions.  Union federation Fedusa has also said it objected to the use of pension money to bail out Eskom, as has union Solidarity, which indicated on Wednesday it would take legal action to stop the plan should the PIC and the Government Employees Pension Fund (GEPF) agree to it.  Earlier this week, Cosatu put the brakes on the process to allow more consultation with workers before conclusion of an agreement with the government and business.  Labour leaders had hoped a social compact could be reached that could be announced by Ramaphosa in the state of the nation address (Sona) on Thursday.  “There are many who are supportive of our proposal.  There are also many who are critical of it.  We have said explicitly that we will welcome and consider any alternative proposals, which are better than we have offered,” Cosatu indicated in a statement.  Alternative submissions will be discussed at Cosatu’s forthcoming central executive meeting.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Carol Paton at BusinessLive (paywall access only)

PIC confirms neither it nor GEPF has received proposals about using pensions to aid Eskom

Engineering News reports that the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) on Thursday confirmed that neither it nor any of its clients, including the Government Employees Pension Fund (GEPF), had been consulted about using the GEPF’s financial resources to help alleviate some of state-owned power utility Eskom’s debt.  This followed after the union federation Cosatu on 3 February proposed that R250-billion of state employees’ pension money, managed by the PIC, should be used to help pay down some of Eskom’s R454-billion debt.  Cosatu has, in the meantime, put the brakes on talks on the proposed social compact between government, the PIC and development finance institutions owing to growing disquiet by organised labour about the implications of such a move.  Trade union Solidarity on Tuesday sent a letter of demand to the GEPF and the PIC requesting that the trustees and boards of those institutions not accept any proposals related to providing financing to the power utility.  The Health and Other Services Personnel Trade Union of SA (Hospersa) wrote a letter with similar sentiments to the GEPF chairperson earlier this week.  The PIC said it was ready and keen to engage with various stakeholders to find a suitable and sustainable solution for the systemic risk posed by Eskom.  Such a solution had to be in line, however, with prudent management of client assets.  “The PIC is obligated to always act in the best interests of its clients, while giving due regard to the national interest,” it pointed out.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard at Engineering News

Eskom starts offering managers voluntary severance packages

Bloomberg reports that debt-stricken power utility Eskom has begun a process of offering voluntary severance packages to managers.  The board has allocated a budget of R400 million to the plan, according to a document seen by Bloomberg.  Spokesman Sikonathi Mantshantsha declined to comment.  Eskom has reduced jobs as it grapples with a R450 billion debt burden.  Its headcount fell to 46,665 employees in 2019, about 4% lower than the previous year, but wider staff cuts have been resisted by labor unions.  Staff levels remain close to what they were when a World Bank study in 2016 found that Eskom was potentially 66% overstaffed.  The workforce has grown more than 23% in the past decade, even as the business has become loss-making and dependent on government bailouts.  The voluntary packages will apparently be open for managers in non-core positions and those who are 60 to 62 years old, regardless of whether they’re in core, critical or non-core positions, according to the document.  Applications will start in the third week of February, with the exits planned by the end of April, subject to Eskom’s discretion.

Read the original of the above report by Paul Burkhardt at Moneyweb. Read too, Eskom sets aside money for voluntary exits for staff, at BusinessLive


PROTEST MARCHES / CAMPAIGNS

Saftu, Amcu and others launch ‘rise up’ campaign as SoNA and national budget approach

Engineering News reports that the SA Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) said in a statement on Wednesday that SA found itself looking over a precipice as the economic malaise currently being experienced all but placed the nation at a point of no return.  With the country facing high levels of poverty and unemployment – particularly among the youth and women – as well as rising inequalities, corruption and crime, the federation said these ills had reached such proportions, “that the country can be plunged into a civil war and strife if nothing is done”.  In the face of the people’s suffering, the federation said the coming together of Saftu, the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu), as well as thousands of unemployed people organised under the Assembly of the Unemployed, Mining Affected Communities United in Action, South African Green Revolutionary Council and countless others, was “a significant step in building a mass-based campaign to confirm the neo-Apartheid capitalism that is reducing South Africa to a wasteland”.  Saftu and its partners intend to kick off their ‘rise up’ campaign by protesting at Thursday’s State of the Nation Address (SoNA), where the parties will gather at the Union Buildings, in Gauteng, and at the Parade in the Cape Town to present an alternative SoNA.  The parties will also be protesting at finance minister Tito Mboweni’s budget day speech, where they intend to have thousands of people march to Parliament to “demand a budget that supports jobs, services and dignity”.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard at Engineering News

Other internet posting(s) in this news category

  • SoNA will be a failure if jobs bloodbath is not addressed, says Cosatu, at Independent News


OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH & SAFETY

Security guard shot in head in cash-in-transit (CIT) heist near Spruitview, Ekurhuleni

EWN reports that on Thursday morning a security guard on Thursday morning was critically wounded after he was shot during a cash-in-transit (CIT) heist on the N3 highway in Spruitview, Ekurhuleni.  Paramedics said the man was found on the side of the road with a gunshot wound to his head.  He was airlifted to a private hospital.  “ER24 paramedics, along with another private service, arrived on the scene at 08h10 to find the cash-in-transit vehicle on the side of the road.  The male security guard was found lying a few metres away.  Medics assessed the man and found that he had sustained a gunshot wound to his head, leaving him in a critical condition,” said ER24 spokesperson Russel Meiring.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Sifiso Zulu at EWN

Other internet posting(s) in this news category

  • Security guard stabbed at Addo Elephant Park by robbers seeking firearm, at TimesLIVE


MINING LABOUR

Gold Fields nails colours to SA saying it has no plans to sell South Deep or switch listing

Miningmx reports that on Thursday Gold Fields CEO Nick Holland nailed his company’s colours to the South African mast, at least for the time being, by telling media and analysts that there were no plans to switch to a primary offshore listing and that South Deep was a core asset for now.  Asked about whether the company’s shares laboured under a South African discount, Holland said:  “Look how we’ve performed.  We are one of the top performers in 2019 (of the world’s gold producers).”  AngloGold Ashanti this week confirmed the sale of its remaining SA assets – Mponeng gold mine and the surface retreatment business, Mine Waste Solutions – in a $300m transaction with the buyer, Harmony Gold.  The sales were part of a strategy to narrow management’s focus and help de-risk the company.  This development has been characterised as historic given that the company has its roots in the gold assets of Anglo American which helped develop the Free State goldfields during the Forties and Fifties.  Holland said his firm’s view on its remaining South African asset – South Deep – was short-term with no fire sales planned.  The mine, situated west of Johannesburg, has a track-record of losing money.  Asked if the company still considered South Deep an asset for sale, Holland said no decisions had been made, especially as it had only made money for one year.  “We want to give ourselves time; we don’t think there’s a big rush to turn the asset around,” he indicated.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by David McKay at Miningmx

Other general posting(s) relating to mining

  • South African gold production surges the most in four years, at Moneyweb


TARIFFS

Higher chicken prices and jobs bloodbath will follow trade protection, association warns

BL Premium reports that an organisation representing local meat importers and exporters warned on Wednesday that hiking tariffs on poultry imports from the US and Brazil would lead to further job losses in SA and an increase in chicken prices.  “Considering the weak economy, high unemployment and the increasingly straitened circumstances that most South Africans find themselves in, this would be terrible news for consumers,” Association of Meat Importers and Exporters (AMIE) CEO Paul Matthew said.  He pointed out that studies have shown that domestic production was unlikely to increase to levels that would meet the gap most likely to be opened by an increase in trade protection.  This would result in consumers having to pay more for chicken, meaning that greater protection could lead to a jobs bloodbath and negatively affect GDP and the economy.  SA is expected to hike tariffs on poultry imports shortly after an application was made by the SA Poultry Association (Sapa), an organisation that represents commercial broiler producers and associated breeder farmers.  Trade & industry minister Ebrahim Patel agreed to the new levies late in 2019 and the measure will apparently soon be made official.  The poultry industry employs about 110,000 people, but it has shed thousands of jobs and blames its demise on cheap chicken imports from Brazil, the US and Europe.  This has brought it into conflict with meat importers who blame the lack of competitiveness of the local poultry industry for its woes.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Bekezela Phakathi at BusinessLive (paywall access only)


VACANCIES / APPOINTMENTS

Three out of four deputy NPA chief positions still vacant

BusinessLive reports that three of the most powerful positions in the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) have been vacant for months, with President Cyril Ramaphosa yet to appoint any new deputy national director of public prosecutions (NDPP).  Ramaphosa’s appointment of Shamila Batohi as the NDPP was critical in restoring the integrity of the NPA, which, for more than a decade, was accused of being abused for political ends — but the second highest layer of the authority’s leadership, taken up by four deputies, is also critical.  The vacancies created by the retirement of Silas Ramaite and Willie Hofmeyr, and the firing of Nomgcobo Jiba resulted in three out of the four deputy positions being vacant. It also created an opportunity for Ramaphosa to appoint people Batohi can trust in the positions.  Advocate Nomvula Mokhatla is currently the only one in a permanent capacity.  The president now has to appoint the new deputies after consultation with Batohi and justice and correctional services minister Ronald Lamola.  There may not be more than four deputies, according to legislation.  Bulelwa Makeke, director of communications of the NPA, said on Tuesday that filling these posts is a priority for the NDPP. She said Batohi was having discussions with Lamola to finalise recommendations to the president.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Claudi Mailovich at BusinessLive


RETRENCHMENTS / COMPANY JOB CUTS

Educor, owner of Damelin and other colleges, to axe nearly half its workforce

BL Premium reports that Educor, the owner of Damelin, City Varsity and Intec colleges, is planning to cut 752 people from its workforce, which would amount to almost half its permanent staff.  The privately owned Educor’s brands also include Lyceum colleges and Central Technical College.  An internal memo dated 7 February that was sent to Educor’s 1,552 permanent employees said the higher education group was "materially affected" by the poor economy, which was leading to fewer enrolments and a growing number of students not paying fees.  "Despite increased austerity measures, expenses remain high due to inflationary and operational pressures," the memo indicated.  The group cut 126 positions in 2019.  Retrenchments are expected to commence from about 7 March.  Educor told staff it would meet them this week to discuss alternatives to layoffs, including proposals for severance packages.  Staff have also been told to write motivational essays arguing why they should not be retrenched.  On Wednesday, AB InBev’s South African Breweries confirmed reports that it would also cut up to 500 workers.  This will swell the ranks of SA’s unemployed, with about 9,000 retrenchments already proposed in 2020 from a range of large companies, including Sibanye-Stillwater, Telkom, Massmart, Aspen and Glencore.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Katharine Child at BusinessLive (paywall access only)

Fawu to refer SAB to Competition Commission over job cuts that ‘contravene’ AB InBev merger conditions

BL Premium reports that the Food and Allied Workers Union (Fawu) intends to file a complaint with the Competition Commission on Thursday to block plans of South African Breweries (SAB) to retrench hundreds of workers.  Deputy general secretary Mayoyo Mngomezulu claimed SAB was in breach of the merger agreement entered into by its parent company, AB InBev, and the commission in 2016 after the latter’s takeover of the local beer maker was finalised.  As part of the merger deal, AB InBev agreed to a number of conditions, including that there would be no forced retrenchments in perpetuity in relation to the merger and that permanent employment numbers would be maintained for five years.  SAB confirmed on Wednesday that it planned to lay off about 500 workers as part of a review of its operations, although the actual number of persons to be retrenched could be less.  The company employs about 5,697 people.  SAB said the looming job cuts were not in contravention of the conditions AB InBev had agreed to.  The company attributed the cuts to a range of factors outside its control, including “regulatory uncertainty, above-inflation excise rates, as well as the prevailing trading conditions in the SA economy.”

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Siseko Njobeni at BusinessLive (paywall access only). Read too, Job cuts expected at SAB, at Moneyweb


SUSPENSIONS

Acting Post Office CEO suspended over whistle-blower’s allegations of conflicts of interest and irregular extensions of contracts

BusinessLive reports that the SA Post Office (Sapo) has provided the reasons for the suspension of its acting group CEO, Lindiwe Kwele, saying it had received a whistle-blower’s report containing serious allegations including conflicts of interest and irregular extensions of contracts.  It was reported earlier in the week that Kwele, after just four months in the role, and the head of the supply chain management division, Mothusi Motjale, were placed on suspension with full pay as of 4 December.  Sapo gave more details on Wednesday regarding the allegations against Kwele and Motjale.  Board member Charles Nwaila said the whistle-blower’s report highlighted issues relating to alleged irregular appointments and payments to service providers, conflicts of interest, irregular extension of contracts, and the procurement and asset control of laptops, among others.  Kwele and Motjale were given the opportunity to supply reasons why they should not be placed on suspension pending an investigation, Nwaila said.  The board considered those representations and decided to place them on suspension to enable an “unhindered and independent investigation” into the allegations.  An external, independent service provider has been appointed and the investigation is under way.  Kwele’s lawyer said his client was challenging the suspension on the basis that it was unlawful.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Genevieve Quintal at BusinessLive


COMMUTING / TRANSPORT

One killed, several injured after a passenger and a goods train collide in Roodepoort

TimesLIVE reports that one person was killed and several others were injured when two trains collided near the Horizon View train station in Roodepoort, west of Johannesburg, on Wednesday evening.  Main Line Passenger Services management said the Premier Classe passenger train travelling from Cape Town collided with a stationary goods train on Wednesday at about 9.53pm.  ER24 spokesperson Russel Meiring said a man and an elderly woman were found trapped inside a carriage of the passenger train.  The man sustained multiple injuries and was declared dead on the scene.  Meiring said rescue teams worked for more than two hours to free the entrapped woman.  She was airlifted to Milpark hospital in a critical condition.  The other injured passengers were taken to Krugersdorp hospital.  Alternative transport was arranged for the rest of the passengers.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Iavan Pijoos at TimesLIVE. Read too, Fikile Mbalula wants full investigation into Roodepoort train crash, at TimesLIVE

Cape Town’s rail enforcement unit chalks up 238 arrests in first year, but fails to make a dent in arson attacks

TimesLIVE reports that Cape Town’s rail enforcement unit arrested 238 people in its first year.  The partners behind the 100-strong team, namely the City of Cape Town, the Western Cape government and the Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa), said on Thursday that 55 people had been charged under the Criminal Matters Amendment Act for damaging essential infrastructure.  The unit impounded more than 2km of stolen copper cable and 865kg of stolen metal and carried out 2,471 inspections at theft hot spots and scrapyards.  The agreement to co-fund the unit expires at the end of June and the city and provincial governments said they wanted to extend it for at least a year.  “The harsh reality is that it will take time and more resources to deal with those who are vandalising and destroying our rail network while we are working hard to stabilise the service,” said Felicity Purchase, Cape Town’s mayoral committee member for transport.  Bonginkosi Madkizela, the transport MEC, admitted that the unit had failed to make a dent in the rash of arson attacks that have crippled Cape Town’s rail network.  “We need to revisit the modus operandi of this unit so that it can be more effective in dealing with arson,” he said.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard at TimesLIVE

 


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