news shutterstockIn our afternoon roundup, see summaries
of our selection of South African labour-
related stories that appeared thus far on
Thursday, 5 March 2020.


STATE WAGE BILL

Twelve revealing numbers that put the public sector wage bill debate in context

Government representatives have recently proposed an adjustment to the public sector wage bill, sparking outrage from unions.  In an informative article, Fin24 has examined some of the numbers that relate to the debate on this issue.  Among the interesting facts highlighted is that between 2006/07 and 2018/19, total compensation spending on the main budget more than tripled, from R154 billion to R518 billion.  Above-inflation remuneration increases accounted for the largest proportion of that spending.  The total number of employees in the public service is 1.2 million, of which 28,000 are senior managers.  The annual salary of a government employee at job grade 16 (senior manager) is R2,169,585, while the annual salary of a government employee at job grade 1 (junior employee) is R130,379.  The Gini coefficient in the public sector is 0.38 while that in the rest of the economy is 0.64, so the public sector has greater wage equality than the rest of SA.  The average annual salary of a private sector worker comes in at R273 000, while in the public sector the average annual salary is R352 000 - R393 000 (although a larger percentage of public servants have tertiary qualifications).  

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Marelise van der Merwe at Fin24


SOEs IN CRISIS

Cosatu tones down its plan for Eskom with commitment that pension fund investments must follow investor mandates

BL Premium reports that Cosatu’s proposal that pension funds invest in Eskom to give it a way out of its debt trap, which is now under discussion with business and government, is taking on a more market-friendly form as discussions progress.  The trade union federation, which made a presentation to parliament’s committee on public enterprises on Wednesday, said it was committed to ensuring that investments by pension funds in Eskom were in line with investor mandates.  This would mean any investment necessarily had to command an inflation-beating return.  "The Public Investment Commission [PIC] has clear mandates by law. They must meet their fiduciary duties; they must ensure this meets their investment criteria. They must get a mandate from the Government Employees Pension Fund or the UIF and if there are additional criteria they want to add for Eskom, we will support that 100%," said Cosatu’s parliamentary officer, Matthew Parks.  In the talks, business has insisted that investment mandates be honoured and fiduciary duties and governance of the financial sector not be compromised.  The proposal has also been tempered by the response of Cosatu’s own members and other union federations, which took fright at the idea that their pensions would be at risk. Solidarity has said it will fight in the courts any attempt to put government pensions into Eskom.

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

DA looking at legal options to stop government using pension funds to save Eskom

EWN reports that the Democratic Alliance (DA) is looking at legal options to block the government from using pension funds to bail out Eskom.  President Cyril Ramaphosa on Tuesday told a meeting with the SA National Editors’ Forum (Sanef) and others that the government wanted private pension funds to also invest in a revamped Eskom.  The government is already in talks with trade union federation Cosatu about its proposal to use state workers' pension savings to help Eskom cut its R450bn debt by R250bn.  DA chief whip Natasha Mazzone said that the party was consulting its lawyers and added:  "The DA will do everything in our power to stop this from happening - even if we have to go to the highest court in the land.  Eskom is a big, black pit that is incapable of delivering secure and stable energy to South Africans. It is unconscionable that President Ramaphosa would pander to the ideas of trade unions to flush pension funds down an endless hole of debt."  Mazzone went on to state:  "Now it’s clear the government doesn’t only want pension funds of government employees to bail out Eskom, but they also want to go after the pensions of private sector workers.  “In either case, the ANC plans are immoral and irrational. Why should hard-working South Africans lose a lifetime’s worth of savings to save a sinking ship?"

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

Other internet posting(s) in this news category

  • Cosatu's debt relief plan for Eskom could work, energy expert tells MPs, at Fin24


SAA BUSINESS RESCUE

Trade unions prepare to present alternative plans to save SAA

EWN reports that as the government and business rescue practitioners (BRPs) work out a plan to save the embattled South African Airways (SAA), trade unions have also been preparing to present alternative plans for rescuing the national carrier.  Apparently, the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa), the SA Cabin Crew Association (Sacca) and the SA Transport and Allied Workers’ Union (Satawu) have been in discussions about the various proposals, with the aim of presenting the Department of Public Enterprises (DPE) and the BRPs with job-saving alternatives.  In its plan, Satawu, which represents workers at SAA Technical, proposes that the airline should explore equity partnerships, which must include employee cooperatives.  The Satawu plan, which was tabled at the ANC national committee meeting on Monday by Cosatu, also suggests that SAA Technical should be a state-owned company, independent of the airline and should offer its services to a wide variety of clients.  Meanwhile, Numsa and Sacca, which launched their alternative strategy in December and have been in a labour court battle with the BRPs, maintain that the airline can be rescued without resorting to job cuts.  Apparently, a meeting will be held with the DPE and the BRPs this week to consider labour’s inputs.

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

Other internet posting(s) in this news category

  • Gordhan hopes some SAA domestic routes get reinstated, at BusinessLive


EMPLOYMENT EQUITY / AFFIRMATIVE ACTION

Coloured man loses court bid that he was denied promotion at correctional services due to his race and opposition to affirmative action

The Star reports that Freddie Engelbrecht, Western Cape Correctional Services deputy commissioner, this week failed to prove to court that he was overlooked for promotion due to his race and his political position on affirmative action and employment equity policies.  A coloured candidate who joined the service in 1982, Engelbrecht took the Department of Correctional Services (DCS) to court after he was not appointed to provincial commissioner positions that were advertised in 2011.  He sought an order declaring that the department discriminated against him on basis of his race.  Engelbrecht also wanted the court to rule that he should be appointed Western Cape commissioner, backdated to July 2011.  He was known to be outspoken about how the DCS applied affirmative action and largely argued that the DCS excluded coloured people.  The DCS denied that Engelbrecht was discriminated against, saying he wasn’t appointed because he failed to perform well in the interview.  The DCS also said Engelbrecht’s contention that he was overlooked because he formed part of a group of public servants opposed to employment equity baseless.  Labour Court Judge Dephney Mahosi ruled that Engelbrecht had failed to prove his case.  “On analysis of the evidence presented, most of what the applicant contended was subjective and could not be objectively verified.  The allegations, though serious, were not proved through the evidence led,” said Judge Mahosi.”  Engelbrecht said he planned to appeal the ruling.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Bongani Nkosi at The Star


REMUNERATION / SALARY ADMINISTRATION

Prasa promises that Autopax employees will get balance of February salaries on Thursday

BusinessLive reports that employees of Autopax will get the balance of their salaries on Thursday after the operator received a R20.9m loan from its troubled parent company the Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa).  Autopax operates intercity buses Translux and City to City.  The loan was issued after 1,071 Autopax employees were paid only 25% of their salaries at the end of February, highlighting the company's cash flow crisis and raising questions about its turnaround strategy’s efficiency.  “The bus company’s staff members can expect the balance of their salaries in their bank accounts on or before Thursday March 5 2020. Prasa apologises to Autopax employees for the inconvenience they have suffered as a result of incomplete salaries being paid.  Furthermore, Prasa will make every effort to ensure that in future salaries of Autopax employees are paid in full and at the contractually agreed date,” Prasa spokesperson Makhosini Mgitywa advised.  Autopax spends about R28m per month on staff salaries.  In 2019 the company’s losses increased to R442m from R345m in the previous year.   It is apparently in the process of making representations to Prasa with a view to finding a “lasting solution” to its cash flow crisis and many other problems facing the bus company.

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


EXECUTIVE PAY

New Woolworths boss bags R54m in shares

Moneyweb reports that new Woolworths Holdings CEO Roy Bagattini, who took the top job on 17 February, has been granted over 1.4 million shares under the group’s retention share plan (RSP). The shares were granted at a weighted average price of R37.8699 per share, with a total transaction value of R54.25 million.  The group says the vesting of these shares “is conditional upon the achievement of Bagattini’s individual performance measures (IPM) and will vest over a three to five-year period”.  The retailer which has two struggling operations, namely its core Woolworths clothing business and its Australian department store chain David Jones, which Bagattini will be expected to turn around.  His full ‘sign-on’ package will be disclosed in the group’s annual report to be published in August and his IPMs will be detailed at that time too.  Bagattini was headhunted from Levi Strauss in the US.  For now, former CEO Ian Moir continues as acting CEO of David Jones.  Moir has been criticised for his remuneration. Despite a cut in pay to R23 million in 2019 (from R30.5 million a year prior), his total earnings over the past five years since the ill-fated purchase of David Jones has been R191 million.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Hilton Tarrant at Moneyweb


NATIONAL MINIMUM WAGE

Contract workers at Caltex supplier locked out over demand for more than minimum wage

Fin24 reports that contract workers at an Astron Energy refinery that supplies Caltex petrol stations say they have been locked out by the company for demanding more than the national minimum wage (NMW).  About 96 contract workers at the former Chevron refinery in Milnerton, Cape Town, spent most of Wednesday outside locked gates after refusing to sign a non-disclosure agreement about how much they earned.  Astron’s Suzanne Pullinger said the workers in question were employed by Tsebo, a contractor offering services to Astron, but she advised that the company would investigate the incident.  One of the workers locked out, said they were called into the refinery’s management office on Wednesday as they had asked management last month to review their wages from the current R22 per hour to R45.  But when they got there, they were asked to sign non-disclosure agreements, stating that they would not raise the issue again or disclose to anyone else how much they earned.  The contract workers have been in employment at the refinery for a month and the contracts they signed stipulate that their wage would be R22 per hour.  That rate is, however, higher than the national minimum wage of R20 for workers in general.  The workers said they would be heading to the CCMA on Thursday morning and the EFF had invited them to its offices afterwards.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Londiwe Buthelezi at Fin24

Spike in CCMA cases since introduction of national minimum wage

Sowetan reports that the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) has seen an increase in cases since the passing of the National Minimum Wage Act.  Speaking on Wednesday at the launch of the commission’s five-year strategy‚ CCMA director Cameron Morajane said they had received a total of 184,000 cases since January.  Of those‚ 28,676 were minimum wage disputes.  “Before the minimum wage came to law last year‚ we had a normal rate of growth of our cases. When the minimum wage started‚ we had anticipated a 10% increase on our caseload – but it tripled. We can call it an exception‚ with the addition of the minimum wage‚” Morajane stated.  He advised that additional to the CCMA’s workload were also pay disputes in terms of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act and explained further as follows:  “This means that the normal cases that would ordinarily be dealt with by the department of employment and labour‚ we are doing them.”  With the launch of the five year strategy called Imvuselelo (revival)‚ Morajane said the CCMA would continue to work towards fewer job losses.  He said the 2015/16-2019/20 Senz’umehluko (making a difference) strategy had made a “meaningful” impact in the labour market:  “Based on figures linked to actual referrals‚ of the 237,531 employees facing retrenchments in [section] 189A‚ large scale retrenchment over the period‚ 96,730 had their jobs saved,” he reported.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Nomahlubi Jordaan on page 16 of Sowetan of 5 March 2020. Read too, CCMA says it’s saved 41% of jobs in the last five years, at EWN


RETRENCHMENTS / COMPANY JOB CUTS

CWU in legal challenge against job cuts at Telkom subsidiary Trudon

The Citizen reports that the Communication Workers Union (CWU) is back in the Labour Court over more job cuts in the telecommunications sector, this time in respect of one of Telkom’s wholly-owned subsidiaries.  Trudon (formerly The Yellow Pages), which according to the court papers was rendered obsolete by modern technology, announced plans in January to retrench as many as 80 of its 180 staff.  This happened on the same day in January that Telkom itself made a similar announcement, to cut up to 3,000 jobs.  In a separate case relating specifically to the Telkom cuts, judgment was scheduled to be handed down on Thursday.  The CWU’s urgent application against Trudon was also set down to be heard on Wednesday, but was postponed for judgment in the case against Telkom to be given first.  The union’s lawyer explained in court that the two cases were “very similar” and that a ruling on one might have an impact on the other.  In its court papers, the CWU accused Trudon of having tried to side step the consultation process and asserted that all the company was doing was “going through the motions and implementing its strategy”.  It claimed that Trudon had started offering staff voluntary exit packages without consulting the union.  The Telkom matter also revolves around the same issue.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Bernadette Wicks on page 4 of The Citizen of 5 March 2020

Numsa heads to Constitutional Court to have retrenched Aveng Trident Steel workers reinstated

Engineering News reports that the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) has approached the Constitutional Court to seek the reinstatement of 733 workers who were dismissed by Aveng Trident Steel.  According to Numsa, the steel fabricator had issued a letter during a Section 189 consultation process in April 2015, demanding that workers accept new changes to their terms and conditions of employment, failing which their contracts would be terminated.  Numsa said the subsequent dismissal of 733 Numsa members had been in violation of the Labour Relations Act, which provided that workers could not be dismissed for refusing a change in their terms and conditions.  The union had taken the matter to the Labour Court, where the dismissals were upheld, and subsequently to the Labour Appeals Court, where the application was also denied.  During the hearings, Aveng argued that the workers were dismissed because of a change in operational requirements and not because of a change in their terms and conditions.  Aveng also claimed that its 2015 letter was issued as a proposal based on operational requirements and not a demand.

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


COMMUTING / TRANSPORT

Massive R1.4bn boost to get Cape Town’s central line back on track

News24Wire reports that the Department of Transport has budgeted a massive amount of money to get the problematic Cape Town central train line back on track.  Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula on Thursday advised that there would be a phased re-introduction of the train service for the central line, which served commuters in Mitchells Plain and Khayelitsha.  The repair plan is expected to cost R1.4-billion and will be conducted in phases.  Commuters in the area have been without train services since November 2019.  Starting in July, Mbalula announced that 80 buses would be used to transport commuters along the central line route as an interim solution for public transport while the Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa) attended to the massive repairs resulting from infrastructure vandalism.  As part of the plan to prevent vandalism, the department announced the building of a four-metre-high concrete barrier along the line as well the installation of security cameras.  Substations would be repaired or rebuilt, overhead electrical lines replaced and signalling modernised.  Full service was expected to be restored by April 2021 and the minister promised 232 train trips per day, with a peak frequency of 10 to 15 minutes.

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

Prasa fails to provide security plan or a tender for new security contracts as court ordered

GroundUp reports that the Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa) has failed to provide a security plan or a tender for new security contracts, as required by a court ruling made in November 2019.  Judge John Hlophe had given Prasa a month to submit such documents.  Three security companies operating in the Western Cape took Prasa to court in November after their contracts were terminated without any alternative safety plan, so leaving the railway vulnerable to crime.  Commuter activist group #UniteBehind accordingly lodged an application with the Western Cape High Court on Tuesday, seeking to have Minister of Transport Fikile Mbalula held accountable for Prasa’s failure to present a security plan to the court.  #UniteBehind also asserted that it was necessary for Mbalula to intervene and oversee the process as Prasa lacked a board to fulfill its oversight duties.  In the application, #UniteBehind pointed out that Prasa was obliged to update the court on what was being done about a new tender contract, as well as give reasons for not complying with the court order.

Read the full original of the GroundUp report in the above regard by Liezl Human at <https://www.groundup.org.za/article/prasa-fails-implement-adequate-security-plan-court-ordered/>

Other internet posting(s) in this news category

  • Western Cape government appoints mediator in bid to get MyCiTi N2 service reinstated, at EWN


OTHER NEWS HEADLINES

  • SA’s shrinking economy needs urgent intervention, says Cosatu, at EWN
  • Cosatu says it cannot understand budget’s failure to deal with corruption and waste, at BusinessLive
  • Skilled trades, technicians, sales and marketing most difficult positions to fill, at Engineering News

 


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