news shutterstockIn our roundup of weekend news, see
summaries of our selection of South African
labour-related stories that appeared since
Friday, 13 March 2020.


TOP STORY - CORONAVIRUS

Nedlac meeting on Monday to discuss economic and labour effects of coronavirus

BusinessLive reports that the economic and labour effect of the rapidly spreading coronavirus will come under the spotlight when the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) discusses the matter on Monday.  Mitigation measures to be taken by its government, business, labour and community stakeholders will also be discussed at the special executive committee meeting.  Trade union federation Cosatu wants the government to come up with a stimulus plan to prepare for the impact of the coronavirus, potentially stretching SA’s already strained finances.  It will call for the plan at the Nedlac meeting on Monday, said Matthew Parks, Cosatu’s parliamentary co-ordinator.  SA has twice slipped into recession since Ramaphosa took office in February 2018.

Based on a report by Luyolo Mkentane at BusinessLive and a Bloomberg report also at BusinessLive

Ahead of bargaining council meeting on Tuesday, unions tell the state to protect frontline workers against coronavirus

City Press reports that as cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus continue to rise in SA, workers’ unions are making their voices heard.  They are demanding that the ministries of health and employment and labour enforce more rigorous preventive measures for workers in the first line of contact with patients and revisit legislation around paid leave.  These demands are expected to take centre stage when the government – in particular the ministers of employment and labour, health, public service and administration, as well as Treasury – meet the trade unions at the Public Service Coordinating Bargaining Council on Tuesday.  Top of the agenda at the meeting will be the possible effects of Covid-19 on the labour sector, as well as discussions on the disputed proposal by the finance minister to curb the public sector wage bill.  Nehawu’s Khaya Xaba indicated that although the department of health had given unions the assurance that further training on the prevention of the virus would be extended to health workers, it had not happened.  Both Nehawu and the Health & Other Services Personnel Trade Union of SA (Hospersa) will use Tuesday’s meeting to demand the provision of protective clothing and gear for health workers and employees at all major ports of entry, all of whom stand a greater risk of being infected.  Unions have accused Minister of Health Zweli Mkhize of briefing the media on the state of affairs regarding the virus but neglecting the unions, the members of which were the ones at the forefront of providing help to those who might have been infected.  Yet another concern raised by the unions at the behest of their members was remuneration and how it might be disrupted if workers had to be put in quarantine.  Union federation Fedusa has called on the employment and labour minister to gazette a special policy that would activate a special Unemployment Insurance Fund.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Juniour Khumalo on page 8 of City Press of 15 March 2020

Taxi drivers say Coronavirus is worse than Aids and government should provide free masks

City Press reports that taxi drivers have expressed the sentiment that, if the government was able to give them free condoms, it should now provide them with free masks, “at a time when our health is clearly in imminent danger”.  Tete Masete, a taxi driver at Wanderers taxi rank in the Johannesburg CBD, said:  “I don’t earn enough money to buy masks. In fact, I don’t even know where I would buy masks if I had to. Where do people buy these masks?”  But, while he advocates the free distribution of masks, Moduki believes he is immune to the virus, saying “I am young and eat healthily.”  Yet, Moduki admits that like many commuters and taxi operators around Noord taxi rank and Wanderers, his knowledge of Covid-19 is limited because “there aren’t enough awareness campaigns about it available to us”.  He went on to say:  “I don’t really know the symptoms or what else can help besides the masks, but I know there is a coronavirus and that people can get it by just breathing.  But we are taxi drivers, we work with people. I drive a taxi full of people to Limpopo for six hours, and we breathe the same air. We could be coughing the whole six hours.”  Other men at the taxi rank said they knew more about HIV and Aids than Covid-19 and that the latter was more dangerous.  With the taxi rank abuzz on a daily basis with talk of the fear of contracting Covid-19, masks would seem to be appropriate to ask of government, especially in the absence of proper ablution facilities, which could be increasing the risks.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Palesa Dlamini on page 8 of City Press of 15 March 2020

Other internet posting(s) in this news category

  • Cyril Ramaphosa declares national disaster to combat Covid-19, at BusinessLive
  • How much could Covid-19 impact the SA economy? at Moneyweb
  • SAA gets unlikely help from coronavirus hit, at Engineering News


MINING LABOUR

Amcu’s deputy president Nkosikho Joni to take court action over suspension

City Press reports that Nkosikho Joni, deputy president of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu), says he will be starting legal proceedings against the union.  On Thursday during an Amcu leadership briefing, it was announced that Joni had been suspended.  The Amcu leaders said that a unanimous vote of no confidence in Joni had been passed by the union’s central executive committee (CEC).  “I am definitely going to be taking legal action.  I only found out about this CEC meeting from the media,” Joni indicated.  He believes that Joseph Mathunjwa, the union’s leader and founder, has been gunning for him since he first assumed the deputy presidency post.  Joni was elected unopposed in September and, shortly after, was called to a meeting and asked to resign, which he refused to do.  There were signs of potential conflict leading up to this turn of events, said Joni.  He alleged that Mathunjwa asked him not to practise his “tribalist mind” and “Xhosa mentality” at Amcu.  This, said Joni, happened at his first national executive committee (NEC) meeting.  Thereafter, he alleges, the union’s national organiser, Dumisani Nkalitshana, was suspended.  “Dumisani, me and Xolani Bokoloshe [Amcu’s national chair of health and safety] are isiXhosa-speaking people. A week later, Dumisani was suspended. The following week, it was me. Then Xolani went to Mathunjwa and apologised – for what, I don’t know. He [Mathunjwa] asked me to apologise as well, but I refused because I had no clue as to why,” said Joni.  Last week it was reported that labour relations registrar Lehlohonolo Molefe had written to Amcu, asking it to provide reasons why Joni and Nkalitshana were in the firing line.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Queenin Masuabi on page 15 of City Press of 15 March 2020. Read too, Joni vows to fight for Amcu post, on page 5 of Sunday Independent of 15 March 2020


FARMING LABOUR

More than 77% of farm workers are not unionised, department of employment and labour study shows

BusinessLive reports that a study by the Department of Employment & Labour (DEL) has found that 77.7% of workers in the agricultural sector are not unionised, with 25% of the employees saying their salaries were decided solely by the employer.  The study, entitled “An Investigation into Agricultural Work: A Decent Work Approach”, was conducted nationwide between 2018 and 2019.  It sampled 4,055 employees and 210 employers, and its response rate was 86%.  Among the main findings were that in respect of those who were permanently employed, 78% had a written contract, while 22% had a verbal contract.  It found that 69% of employees would have liked to work more hours in their current jobs; that 63.2% had access to family responsibility leave while 47.5% received maternity leave; and 76.5% had access to vacation leave.  The study found that 48.3% of employers paid pension, compensation for occupational injuries and disease (38.1%) and the Unemployment Insurance Fund (87%).  Regarding a safe work environment, the study found that a total of 8.5% of employees contracted diseases and 17.5% sustained injuries on duty.  The survey also revealed that employers instituted unpaid leave when the farm experienced adverse weather conditions.  The department recommended that “easy access” be facilitated for union officials at farms in an effort to “foster good working relations for all social partners in this sector”.

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


COMPANY JOB CUTS / RESTRUCTURING / RETRENCHMENTS /

Unions fear job losses at Sasol after share price collapse

SowetanLive reports that trade unions have expressed concern that the free falling share price of Sasol could inevitably result in a jobs bloodbath.  Their fears were expressed after the share price of the petrochemical giant collapsed by approximately negative 94% to R35 on Thursday from a peak of R576 in August 2018.  In statement released on Thursday, Sasol said it was considering selling off some assets to raise cash.  National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) general secretary David Sipunzi commented:  “Our worry is that if things continue as they are, the next thing we will see is the company coming to us with letters to retrench workers.  However, since [Sowetan] has brought this matter to our attention, we will request the management to meet with us.”  The meeting could take place as soon as Monday.  Zwelinzima Vavi, SA Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) general secretary, said he was worried that if the Public Investment Corporation, Development Bank of SA or Industrial Development Corporation, among other state-owned entities, did not purchase Sasol, it could start retrenching workers.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Mpho Sibanyoni at SowetanLive

SABC to axe more than 30 radio sports bulletin readers

City Press reports that more than 30 SA Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) radio sports bulletin readers are facing a bleak future.  The public broadcaster has announced its intention to collapse sports segments and combine them with news bulletins at all of its public radio stations.  The move is part of cost-cutting measures being implemented by the cash-strapped SABC as part of its turnaround plan.  On Tuesday, the SABC sports department sent an email to both its radio station managers and sports readers, informing them of the impending changes.  However, the presenters got a glimmer of hope because they might be retained by their individual stations.  The move will not affect sports show presenters and producers.  According to an inside source, the SABC was also planning to shut down Sport Info Hub, which provides up-to-date bulletins and sport news content.  “All the staff working for this department, including researchers and content producers, are also going to lose their jobs,” he indicated.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Ntombizodwa Makhoba at City Press

Telkom starts restructuring process

Engineering News reports that embattled telecommunications group Telkom on Friday announced the start of the first phase of its two-phase restructuring process.  The group, starting its consultation processes, issued Section 189 notices, in addition to the offer of voluntary severance packages (VSPs) and voluntary early retirement packages (VERPs) as an alternative to retrenchments, to its employees.  The first phase of the process of the VSP, VERP and Section 189 notices will cost about R1.5-billion, which is expected to negatively impact Telkom’s 2020 financial year earnings.  “The cash outflow related to the restructuring process is expected in the first half of the new financial year. Available cash resources will be used to fund the restructuring process. This allows Telkom to remain within the current debt levels,” the company said in a market update to shareholders.

Read the original of the above report at Engineering News

Telkom to spend R1.5bn on first phase of job cuts

BusinessLive reports that Telkom shares dropped almost 17% on Friday after the company said job cuts would cost R1.5bn.  The telecoms group has started the first phase of its retrenchment process that will result in a total 3,000 jobs being lost.  In a market update, the company said the restructuring was a result of the technological shift to fibre and LTE as new sources of revenue.  This has been “compounded by a rapid decline in our traditional high-margin, fixed-voice business, in line with global trends”.  Telkom will use its cash reserves to pay for the cost of the restructuring to prevent increasing its debt.  Peter Takaendesa of Mergence Investment Managers commented that the next phase of restructuring was likely to be at lower financial cost for Telkom as it would affect operations such as BCX.  That company already underwent a round of retrenchments in November 2018 when it said it would cut 10% of its workforce, or about 700 employees.  He cautioned that “one can’t rule another round of retrenchments” in the next 12 to 18 months for the group that employs about 15,000 people.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Mudiwa Gavaza at BusinessLive

Corruption in water sector washed away many jobs and billions of rands

Business Report writes that according to Corruption Watch and the Water Integrity Network, corruption in the water sector involving all levels of society has cost jobs and billions of rand.  Their report, released on Thursday, revealed the involvement of an array of players from plumbers, tanker drivers and senior officials to mayors, ministers and the many private businesses that benefited from corruption, and in some cases actively promoted it.  It said while there was corruption prior to 2014 - investigations worth R50-million were under way at the time - by the time former minister of water and sanitation Nomvula Mokonyane left in 2018, irregular expenditure had ballooned to more than R4-billion with new cases being uncovered.  Other abuses occurred in the provision of portable chemical toilets, the awarding of mining water licences, managing water pollution and abstraction.  The report said strategies included the capture of entire water sector organisations. But every facet of management has been exploited, including policy making, procurement, and operational and contract administration. Collusive business practices helped to create an environment for corruption.  The report said leading consulting engineering firms, unable to maintain an adequate workflow, had sold out to international companies or gone out of business.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Edward West at Business Report


SUSPENSIONS

Prasa suspends 12 senior officials on ‘gross misconduct’ allegations

BusinessLive reports that the Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa), which was placed under administration in December, has suspended 12 senior officials for allegations of gross misconduct emanating from various investigations.  On Friday afternoon, Prasa said it suspended the officials pending a disciplinary process into the allegations, and that the employees came from various business units, regions and departments within the agency.  Some of the suspensions arise from ongoing investigations by the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) into contracts and payments made by the company from 1 January 2010 to the present, with a view to uncovering corruption.  Prasa is going through a debilitating cash-flow crunch that has depleted its operational budget and further led to the company failing to pay suppliers and creditors.  Its dire financial position is in part due to irregular expenditure amounting to billions of rand under the watch of successive boards and the executive.

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

Gauteng health department has paid R790,000 to 13 suspended employees

News24 reports that according to the Democratic Alliance’s (DA’s) Jack Bloom, the Gauteng Department of Health (DOH) has paid 13 suspended employees undergoing disciplinary hearings R790,000.  This was revealed by Gauteng Health MEC Bandile Masuku in a written reply to Bloom’s questions in the Gauteng legislature.  "According to Masuku, the suspended staff include four directors, two deputy directors, two social workers, two contract workers, an operation manager, a property caretaker and a radiographer," Bloom advised in a statement on Sunday.  One of the staff members was currently on special leave and working from home while awaiting the conclusion of an investigation.  According to DOH spokesperson Kwara Kekana, the 13 employees were suspended for various reasons, including absconding from duty, absenteeism and improper conduct.  "The labour relations process has not concluded with regards to their disciplinary process, and the department works within the ambit of the law when dealing with all HR processes.  Strengthening leadership and governance is one of the key priority areas of the 6th administration, this involves speedy resolution of labour relations issues," she stated.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Azarrah Karrim at News24


OTHER NEWS HEADLINES

  • Municipalities need ‘war kitty’ to fight corruption, says Salga, at BusinessLive
  • Government approves import tariff hike on chicken portions, at Fin24
  • State raid on pensions would be a disaster, but don't panic, at BuisinessLive

 


Get other news reports at the SA Labour News home page