news shutterstockIn our roundup of weekend news, see
summaries of our selection of South African
labour-related stories that appeared since
Friday, 28 February 2020.


TOP STORY – PUBLIC SECTOR WAGE BILL

Will Cyril Ramaphosa blink on public sector wage bill after pressure from Cosatu?

City Press reports that with unions having slammed the state’s intention to renege on a three-year public sector wage agreement reached at the National Bargaining Council, a showdown is set for this week that may force President Cyril Ramaphosa’s hand.  Labour federation Cosatu and the SA Communist Party (SACP) are set to attend the ANC’s national working committee (NWC) on Monday.  Although the initial agenda had been about determining the direction of state-owned enterprises (SOEs), Finance Minister Tito Mboweni’s new plan to slash the public sector wage bill by R160.2 billion over three years, which will entail the government reneging on the three-year deal, are now also set to be put on the table.  Also on Monday, Treasury is expected to cross swords with unions at the monthly meeting of the presidential working committee on jobs at Nedlac.  Ramaphosa has been left between a rock and a hard place: either he supports the finance minister he tasked with rescuing the country’s finances or Cosatu, which, together with the SACP, has been his most solid ally in the fractured ruling party.  Ratings agency Moody’s has already warned that the economic forecasts contained in Mboweni’s 2020 budget could be rendered uncertain by the labour movement’s reaction and expected engagements with the governing party, which could lead to Ramaphosa’s back-tracking on the proposed public wage bill reductions.  The main difference of opinion between Cosatu and the government, and a deal-breaker for Cosatu, is Treasury’s focus only on workers falling under the public services bargaining council, namely teachers, nurses and the police), not those who fall under local government and SOEs.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Juniour Khumalo, S’thembile Cele and Setumo Stone at City Press

Tito Mboweni’s fiscal targets in doubt as unions refuse to revisit public sector pay deal

BL Premium reports that Finance Minister Tito Mboweni’s fiscal targets looked in jeopardy as trade unions said on Sunday that they flatly refused to agree to revisit 2020 wage increases.  This was indicated ahead of crucial government, ANC and labour meetings on Monday.  Mboweni dropped a bombshell on Wednesday, announcing that R160bn would be cut from the state wage bill, beginning with this year’s annual increase due to be implemented on 1 April.  On Sunday, SA Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) general secretary Mugwena Maluleke, who heads Cosatu’s joint management team of public sector unions, said:  "There is a willingness to engage, but reopening the three-year agreement is not on the table. Let us negotiate for 2021. As labour, we have already made our sacrifices when the last agreement was signed. We cannot ask workers to sacrifice twice."  He said that labour wanted the government to show it evidence on how it had cracked down on corruption and inefficiencies in negotiating the next round.  Khaya Xaba of the National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu), the second-largest public-sector union, said on Sunday: "We will not allow anything that seeks to take away workers’ gains.  The government must cut wasteful expenditure and corruption instead."  General secretary of Fedusa, Riefdah Ajam, said the federation’s member unions would declare a dispute at the next meeting of the bargaining chamber and that "We are no ways going to allow matters to be reopened."  Nactu general secretary Narius Moloto said: "Salary cuts will never be acceptable, especially if they come as a result of the mismanagement and looting that have been taking place. It’s fundamentally wrong."

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

Cosatu challenges Ramaphosa to take charge of his Cabinet

EWN reports that Cosatu on Thursday challenged President Cyril Ramaphosa to take charge of his Cabinet, saying his ministers consistently undermined and contradicted government and ANC policies.  The labour federation, which was the first formation within the ANC and its broader movement to nominate Ramaphosa as president, berated its limited influence in government.  Leaders of the federation briefed reporters at its post-central executive committee about the disdain felt in the wake of National Treasury’s decision to slash the public wage bill by R160 billion in the next three years.  “Cosatu rejects government’s narrow fixation with the public service wage bill.  We see this provocative project as a challenge from National Treasury and we will not allow workers to be used as scapegoats for this economic crisis,” Cosatu general secretary Bheki Ntshalintshali said.  Meanwhile, Finance Minister Tito Mboweni said it was incorrect to say there had been no talks between the government and organised labour about reducing the public sector wage bill.  Briefing MPs on Thursday, Mboweni did however concede that communication might have been poor.  According to Mboweni, the Minister of Public Service and Administration had “formally, according to process, submitted proposals to the Public Service Coordinating Bargaining Council, having taken account of all the conversations that have taken place.”

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Theto Mahlakoana & Gaye Davis at EWN

Other internet posting(s) in this news category

  • Unions slam move to cut wage bill, at Mail & Guardian
  • Cosatu tells Mboweni to stay in his lane, at Moneyweb
  • Cosatu says Mboweni not competent to talk about public wage bill cuts, at Fin24


OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH & SAFETY

Pretoria police detective killed after suspect grabbed his firearm and shot him during arrest

News24 reports that a detective attached to the Garsfontein SA Police Service (SAPS) in Pretoria was killed by a suspect whom he and two other colleagues were arresting on Saturday morning.  The suspect also sustained gunshot wounds and is being treated under police guard in hospital.  Police spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Brenda Muridili explained that the detective was on the scene at around 10:30 when police were arresting the suspect in connection with a case of assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.  Three detectives approached the suspect on the corner of Garsfontein and Rubenstein roads, but he attacked them with rocks.  "On trying to apprehend the suspect, he managed to grab one of the members' firearms and fatally wounded him.  The other members managed to retaliate wherein the suspect was shot and wounded," Muridili indicated.  The accused will appear in court once he is declared fit to do so and will face a charge of murder and two counts of attempted murder.

Read the original of the above report by Sesona Ngqakamba at News24

Female doctor attacked at Durban hospital after patient died following surgical procedure

Sunday Tribune reports that a female doctor was assaulted after a patient she had operated on died shortly after the medical procedure.  According to reports on various media platforms, a group of men stormed the Lenmed Nu Shifa Hospital in Sydenham and attacked the doctor.  The doctor, believed to be a gynaecologist was allegedly violently attacked and suffered serious injuries.  According to a statement from the hospital, the relevant authorities were investigating the matter and the hospital would take appropriate action following the outcome.  The hospital added the following:  "Members of the community are encouraged to be aware of inaccurate reports circulating on social media.  In order to respect the confidentiality of those involved, we are not able to disclose the details of the incident."  Police confirmed that a case of assault had been investigated by the Sydenham police and advised that the docket had been sent to the office of the Senior Public Prosecutor for a decision.

Read the original of the above report by Se-Anne Rall at Independent News

Other internet posting(s) in this news category

  • Five buses stoned and three drivers were injured on Friday amid volatility in Nyanga, at News24
  • Five cash-in-transit heist suspects arrested in Joburg, at Independent News


PROTEST MARCHES

Satawu marches on Airlink at OR Tambo International over ‘victimisation’ of members

According to Fin24 report, the SA Transport and Allied Workers’ Union (Satawu) in Gauteng was scheduled on Friday to march on privately-owned regional airline Airlink at OR Tambo International Airport to protest against the "victimisation" of its members.  Airlink rejected such allegations as "preposterous".  One of the issues Satawu has with the airline relates to recent salary negotiations.  According to the union, workers were due for a pay rise in April 2019, but only received it in January this year.  In mid-January the union also proposed amendments to the cabin crew recognition agreement with the aim of extending the same rights to the ground/ramp union members.  According to the union, the airline rejected this.  According to Satawu, the airline "victimised" some of its members by accusing them of intimidation "for merely chatting on a WhatsApp group started for the purposes of discussing union matters".  Seven union members were suspended at the end of January and later dismissed, having been accused of "insolence".  Satawu has referred the case to the CCMA.  The union is also challenging Airlink's refusal to extend organisational rights at the CCMA.  Furthermore, the union has issues with the involvement of labour consultant LabourNet at Airlink.  According to Airlink, Satawu has already failed at both the CCMA and the Labour Court with its "baseless allegations".

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Carin Smith at Fin24


MINING LABOUR

Impala Rustenburg’s stunning performance turnaround saves 12,500 jobs

Mining Weekly reports that Impala Platinum (Implats) has upped its game at its Rustenburg operations to such a stunning extent that the 12,500 jobs that were earmarked for loss through shaft closures have all been preserved.  Once doomed shafts have not been saved by the increased prices of platinum group metals (PGMs), but as a result of improved collective operational effort.  Even if prices had remained at their 2018 levels when the shafts were set aside for closure, there would now be no reason for their closure, because they have surpassed expectations and returned themselves into the portfolio as profit contributors.  The stellar performance of particularly 12 Shaft and 14 Shaft, which represent 28% of total group production, saved 10,000 jobs, and the return to profit of the high-cost and depleting 1 Shaft saved another 2,500 jobs.  CE Mark Munroe listed the main turnaround drivers as being the mine’s return to basics, a focus on the creation of increased face length and a working culture advance towards disciplined execution.

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

Eskom cuts power at Optimum Coal and leans towards liquidation of the Gupta-owned mine

City Press reports that Eskom has cut the power at Gupta-owned Optimum Coal and wants it liquidated.  It blames the mine’s business rescue practitioners (BRPs) for failing to bring it back to profitability.  The mine has been struggling financially and it has failed to pay Eskom for its power supply.  Eskom, which is one of the mine’s major creditors, indicated in an email sent on 21 February to the BRPs and other interested parties, who are expected to vote on the future of the mine, that it leaned towards liquidation.  Eskom lawyer Gareth Cremen, wrote:  “The mine is deteriorating as the days go by; and [there is a] lack of funding for its care and maintenance … In light of the aforesaid, our client is leaning more in favour of a liquidation for reasons set out above, which are not exhaustive.”  The comments by Eskom have been met with resistance from Richard Mguzulu, the representative of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM).  The union represents at least 3,000 employees whose livelihood has been affected by the ongoing problems at Optimum.  On Tuesday, Mguzulu wrote a harshly worded email in which he expressed the union’s disappointment and labelled Eskom’s statements as “very reckless”.  The NUM also blamed Eskom for delaying the sale of the company.  The future of Optimum has been hanging in the balance for 18 months since the BRPs took charge of its operations.  The creditors have now opted for arbitration to determine the validity of their claims against the struggling coal mine.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Abram Mashego on page 1 of City Press Business of 1 March 2020


SAA BUSINESS RESCUE

SAA business rescuers practitioners get extra month to come up with turnaround plan

Bloomberg reports that the South African Airways (SAA) business rescue practitioners (BRPs) have been given an extra month to complete a turnaround plan for the loss-making state airline.  They can now file their report on SAA by the end of March, they indicated in a statement on Friday.  A majority of creditors have agreed to the extension.  The government placed SAA into business rescue late last year and last week the National Treasury increased the amount of funding available to the carrier to R16.4 billion to help service debt while the BRPs complete their task.  The extension is to allow committees representing SAA employees and creditors to give feedback on a draft version of the plan, while the Department of Public Enterprises would also be given an opportunity to comment, the administrators said.  A final version will then be published and voted on by lenders.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Antony Sguazzin at Moneyweb

Other internet posting(s) in this news category

  • ‘Conversation to liquidate SAA not completely off the table’, at Moneyweb


LABOUR LAW NONCOMPLIANCE

Spar owner who was ordered to pay R12m to staff plays the victim card

SowetanLive reports that the owner of a number of Spar franchises who has been ordered to pay R12m to his staff for violating labour laws says he is being "victimised".  Chris Giannacopolous was found to have made illegal deductions from his employees and to have failed to issue them with contracts, among other contraventions.  The CCMA recently ordered Giannacopolous to pay workers R11,935,478 for failing to comply with labour laws.  The CCMA issued the awards after employees from eight stores owned by the Giannacopolous family group lodged complaints with the Department of Employment and Labour (DEL).  But, the Giannacopolous family group said that although Spar has 970 stores in SA, no other stores apart from those belonging to the family have been constantly audited for labour violations.  Giannacopolous's lawyer Marry Erlank said was it obvious that the group was being "unjustly victimised".  "We have now applied to the labour court to set aside the awards on review because they are defective and untrue," Erlank indicated.  In another battle, the Spar Guild has brought an application to try and cut ties with the Giannacopolous family group for bringing the retail chain store's name into disrepute and the matter will be heading to court this week.  The family owns more than 41 stores across the country.  

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Promise Marupeng at SowetanLive


COMMUTING / TRANSPORT

Eskom power cut over unpaid bills derails Western Cape train service on Thursday

ANA reports that commuter trains throughout the Western Cape came to a halt on Thursday as Eskom disconnected power to Metrorail due to unpaid bills, causing transport chaos in the province.  Limited service was restored by late afternoon after the Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa), which owns Metrorail, arranged for payment to the power utility.  Announcing the restoration of service on Thursday night, Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula said his department had turned to National Treasury to help it settle the arrears and resolve the crisis.  Mbalula used the opportunity to implore the finance ministry to allow Prasa to convert some of its capital to operational funds to keep trains running as the troubled rail agency had depleted its operational budget.  Prasa said it had been caught off guard by Eskom's step as the two entities had been in talks regarding the outstanding amount and the timeframe for settling the bill.  Mbalula earlier in the week briefed MPs on Prasa and described it as being in a state of collapse after a decade of corruption.  The minister late last year dissolved Prasa’s interim board and appointed an administrator for 12 months to put in place measures to turn the agency around.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard at Engineering News. Read too, Power restored to Western Cape trains as Prasa pays R6.5m Eskom bill, at TimesLIVE

Why Eskom did not warn train users of the cutting of power to Metrorail in Western Cape

News24 reports that Eskom cited customer confidentiality for not warning hundreds of thousands of train users in the Western Cape that it was going to cut power to Metrorail on Thursday over an unpaid electricity bill.  "The point is we have a contract with Prasa [Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa]. That contract is confidential," said Eskom spokesperson Sikonathi Mantshantsha, when asked why commuters were not warned ahead of time.  He said Prasa had known 48 hours in advance that its power would be cut if it did not pay its bill and so Prasa should have warned its customers.  "Metrorail commuters are customers of Prasa. Prasa is a customer of Eskom. We warned Prasa two days prior to actually terminating supply that if they don't pay by the date - by yesterday [Thursday] - we will terminate supply," Mantshantsha stated.  But Prasa spokesperson Makhosini Mgitywa said they were taken by surprise and indicated:  "We didn't expect it. We scrambled to pay when power was cut off. We knew that we didn't have power when we didn't have power."  He went on to comment:  "To take a step to cut off power because our invoice was 34 days overdue is unreasonable if you know that your client has the difficulty that we have."  The Golden Arrow Bus Service added buses, and drivers worked until late to help clear the queues snaking through the Cape Town CBD as people hoped to get a space on a taxi.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Jenni Evans at News24


OTHER NEWS HEADLINES AND ARTICLES

  • Government set to grow SA's business events industry, according to tourism minister, at Fin24
  • Australian government denies visa applications of SA 'refugees', at News24

 


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