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
Monday, 7 September 2020.


TOP STORY – RAIL COMMUTING

Due to damaged infrastructure, Gauteng commuter trains could take two years to run again

SowetanLive reports that the Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa) is facing a crisis that could affect the operation of trains in Gauteng due to damaged infrastructure.  It will cost Prasa billions of rand to repair damage to the rails, overhead electrical cables and railway stations.  Theft and vandalism are currently taking place day and night with no clear interest by law enforcement to stop it.  But, the damage is going to leave hundreds of thousands of Metrorail users in limbo when the lockdown regulations are eased to level 1 and trains are allowed to return to full operation.  In July, Prasa opened the Mamelodi to Pretoria line for limited operations.  The trains were pulled by diesel engines after overhead cabling was stolen.  Two other lines were opened in the Eastern Cape, one in Durban and one in Cape Town.  Plans are afoot to open other corridors when the country moves to level 1 of the national lockdown.  But, given the state of the infrastructure in Gauteng, commuters might wait longer before trains start running again.  Apart from the reluctance by law enforcement officers to stop the criminality on the railways, the infrastructure damage has deteriorated during the lockdown, as Prasa had ended its security contracts at train stations.  There is suspicion within Prasa that the security companies could be involved in the vandalism as the agency believes they are trying to put pressure for their contracts to be renewed.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Penwell Dlamini on page 4 of Sowetan of 7 September 2020

Majority of train stations in Gauteng have no power, leaving township commuters stranded

The Star reports that the majority of metro train stations in Gauteng do not have functioning electricity, a situation that has left many townships without the cheap mode of transport.  Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula revealed in a parliamentary reply that 142 train stations in Gauteng did not have power.  Only 90 of the stations in the province have functioning electricity.  Gauteng has 232 stations stretching from Randfontein to Soshanguve and Vereeniging to Katlehong.  Among the four provinces with Metrorail trains, Gauteng led the pack in terms of the number of stations without power.  Only 10 out of 102 stations in KwaZulu-Natal were without functioning electricity, with 15 out of 124 in the Western Cape, while just seven of the Eastern Cape’s train stations were without power.  The Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa) said the problem had worsened during the lockdown, with criminals having stolen the overhead cables.  Activist group United Commuter Voice (UCV) said the electricity debacle was the cause of trains no longer operating in many communities.  Only Mamelodi and Tembisa in Gauteng have train services.  Before the lockdown, UCV blamed Prasa for increased cable theft at stations, linking the increasing vandalism to Prasa’s decision to remove contracted security companies in October last year.  Prasa started a drive in July to recruit 3,100 security guards.

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

Security function now top priority, says Prasa’s CEO

Engineering News reports that Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa) CEO Nosipho Damasane says that Covid-19 has given the state-owned rail entity the opportunity to “stop and think” about its service offering and the way forward.  But, it has also left the door open to severe vandalism of its assets during the national lockdown.  Damasane indicated that Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula was looking at the matter in “an integrated fashion” with all the government departments related to the security of State assets.  Internally, the agency has insourced its security function, in order to regain ownership of this arm of its operations.  Damasane advised that Prasa had completed a first round of appointments, with 3,100 new security officers in various categories now active at the agency.  “We are buying vehicles and we are going the route of electronic guarding.  All of this we are rolling out on time, every day, as we have no other option … to make sure that we don’t [re]start operations without security.  Our strategy is one where our biggest investment is in security, followed by infrastructure and followed by operations to service our clients – in that order,” Damasane indicated.

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

Other internet posting(s) in this news category

  • Life without trains tough for commuters, on page 5 of Sowetan of 7 September 2020


PPE GRAFT

Most PPE suppliers given government contracts were not tax compliant, says Sars

BL Premium reports that SA Revenue Service (Sars) commissioner Edward Kieswetter advised on Monday that most companies awarded personal protective equipment (PPE) tenders by government departments were not tax compliant.  Tax compliance is one of the basic requirements of the normal government tender system, but was set aside to allow emergency procurement of PPE and other equipment to address the urgent needs generated by Covid-19.  A total of 63% of all the companies awarded PPE tenders were not tax compliant.  Kieswetter also said that 22 of the companies that won R1.3bn of the R2bn of tenders awarded were linked to politically exposed people.  Most of those who were successful in winning tenders had no previous experience in the PPE business and were involved in businesses such as IT shops, car-washing bays, property letting companies, bakeries, events management companies and so on.  President Cyril Ramaphosa has instituted a system whereby all PPE contracts have to be submitted to an interministerial committee for investigation to ensure transparency.  This followed a public outcry over the rampant corruption associated with the tenders.

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

B4SA says no substandard PPE was procured on behalf of donors

EWN reports that according to Business for SA (B4SA), no substandard products or falsified personal protective equipment (PPE) procured on behalf of its donors was distributed to doctors or nurses.  The Hawks are investigating more than 50 cases relating to PPE procurement which failed to meet safety standards.  Four companies have been charged for providing substandard gear, which could have endangered the lives of health workers.  B4SA was involved in PPE procurement, but head of public health, Stavros Nicolaou, explained that there had been a three-step process in place for quality control:  “If one of the consignments didn’t pass that, it just was rejected and did not go out into the marketplace.  Certainly, for the product that Business for South Africa procured on behalf of its donors, no product went out that would have exposed health workers or medical practitioners,” he indicated.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Mia Lindeque at EWN


PROTESTS / CAMPAIGNS

Entertainers set to hold massive protest to allow gigs under lockdown level 2

The Star reports that entertainers based in Gauteng, among them media personalities, DJs, dancers, models and event organisers, are gearing up for a massive protest under the banner #VulaPresident.  The protest will be staged at the Union Buildings this week with a view to forcing the government to allow entertainers to host gigs under level 2 of the lockdown.  Organisers have already amassed support from about 300 entertainers, who are also part of a WhatsApp group mobilising more artists to join forces.  The group’s spokesperson, Percy Sleash SA, said many artists were struggling financially as a result of the restriction on gigs:  “It has been four to five month with no source of income for some of us. I am a radio presenter, but I make most of (my) income from events. I serve as MC at lots of events.”  On Sunday, the organisers met at the Union Buildings to plan the upcoming protest.  Percy Sleash SA said the campaign was motivated by a protest staged last week by KwaZulu-Natal artists in Durban in which the N3 highway was blocked.  He indicated that the campaigners were hoping President Cyril Ramaphosa would allow events to be held with a limited capacity of 70% revellers.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Rapula Moatshe on page 1 of The Star of 7 September 2020

Clicks workers 'unfortunate collateral', says EFF's Floyd Shivambu as the party vows to protest the whole week against the retailer

News24 reports that EFF deputy president Floyd Shivambu says Clicks workers are "unfortunate collateral" in the political party's protest action against the retail chain.  Speaking outside a Clicks store in Sandton City, Shivambu said Clicks should suffer the consequences after the publication of an advert that depicted black people's hair as "dry" and "damaged" but white people's hair as "normal".  There were about 30 EFF members at the protest in Sandton.  The protests have impacted many Clicks workers' ability to go to work and some stores closed their doors.  But Shivambu said:  "The employees of Clicks must know that after this action they are going to benefit forever because this management will start respecting black people by force."  He added that "the employees of Clicks must be rest assured that after our action, they are going to benefit from this".  Shivambu claimed that after protests against retail chain H&M in 2013, workers gained "more respect" from their employees and that "all their demands were acceded to".  Shivambu vowed to continue with the Clicks shutdown until the retailer met the party's demands.  "We are here to stop Clicks from operating.  If they open, we enter … and there will not be any operation that is going to exist here," Shivambu warned.

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


MINING LABOUR

State looks to expropriate Lily Gold Mine

City Press reports that the parliamentary portfolio committee on mineral resources and energy is seeking legal opinion to expropriate Lily Mine in Mpumalanga, where the bodies of three workers have been trapped underground since an entrance to a shaft collapsed in 2016.  The committee’s chairperson, Sahlulele Luzipho, says expropriation might be the best option because Vantage Goldfields SA (VGSA) has been rejecting offers to purchase the gold mine in Louisville near Barberton.  VGSA has been involved in a string of litigation cases with potential buyers, in particular those linked to Siyakhula Sonke Empowerment Corporation, its subsidiary Flaming Silver Trading 373 and Arqomanzi, an entity formed by Flaming Silver and Taung Gold.  Lily and its sister mine, Barbrook, were put under business rescue following the disaster and have been up for sale for the past four years for R310m, which would also cover the cost of retrieving the shipping container that fell 50m into a sinkhole with the three workers inside.  Luzipho said:  “The problem we’re sitting with is that the same company that acted negligently must accept the purchase offer.  Yet it seems these people will never sell because, if they do, and the three mine workers are retrieved, there’ll be a case.  The delay in selling the mine could be a way of avoiding prosecution.”

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Sizwe Sama Yende on page 6 of City Press Business of 6 September 2020

Other labour / community posting(s) relating to mining


UNION AFFAIRS

Police Minister defers Popcru president’s retirement for three years

City Press reports that Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (Popcru) president, Zizamele Makhaza has scored himself a three-year contract after convincing Police Minister Bheki Cele to defer the date of his retirement even though he has not been an active police officer for 15 years.  Makhaza, whose rank is colonel, was expected to go into retirement on 30 November because he will be turning 60, but will now keep his SA Police Service (SAPS) salary and perks until 30 November 2023.  But, his contract extension has not gone down well with his rivals in the union, who see this as a strategy to buy time to cover up shenanigans in Popcru’s business arm, the Popcru Group of Companies (PGC).  Makhaza has been at loggerheads with union general secretary Nkosinathi Theledi, whom the union’s national executive committee (NEC) attempted unsuccessfully to dismiss for initiating an investigation against Popcru’s Eastern Cape leadership and other NEC members.  Makhaza declined to comment about why he applied for his retirement to be deferred.  He also declined to comment about the alleged misappropriation of the PGC’s funds.  With the contract extension, Makhaza is expected to earn about R2.2m from the police in the next three years, excluding an amount of R65,000 that the reportedly earns from the PGC each month and R35,000 as Popcru’s president

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Sizwe Sama Yende on page 6 of City Press of 6 September 2020


UNILATERAL CHANGE TO EMPLOYMENT CONDITIONS

Solidarity in Labour Court to stop NWU implementing new group life insurance scheme

Solidarity reports that it intends to file an urgent application against North-West University (NWU) in the Labour Court in Johannesburg on Thursday regarding the institution’s alleged unfair conduct towards employees.  According to the trade union, the NWU has effected unlawful changes to its members’ salary agreements in that on 24 July the university informed its employees by letter that they would be placed on a new “group life insurance scheme” from 1 August, thereby replacing the scheme set out in their original employment agreement.  The new scheme entails a higher premium and provides fewer benefits than the previous scheme.  According to the union, the decision was taken unilaterally and no proper consultation process was followed involving employees or their representatives.  Anton van der Bijl, head of labour law services at Solidarity, commented:  “The outcome of this is that employees suddenly are beneficiaries of a new life insurance scheme, but they now have to pay more for less cover.  This action by the NWU is nothing less than a violation of the rights of NWU employees.”  The higher premium of the new life insurance scheme is deducted directly from an employee’s salary and in the court documents, Solidarity will argue that such changes, introduced without an agreement between the employee and the employer, are unlawful.

Read Solidarity’s full press statement on this matter at Polity


MISCONDUCT / CRIME

Mpumalanga store staff allegedly used metal pipe to kill man for insulting colleague

News24 reports that the manager at a Mpumalanga chain store as well as his assistant and a security guard were scheduled to appear in the Carolina Magistrate's Court on Monday after they allegedly used a metal pipe to severely assault two men to punish them for insulting their colleague.  According to police spokesperson Brigadier Leonard Hlathi, the three men were arrested on 4 September, following a police investigation into the incident on 14 August.  The three allegedly came upon the two men, aged 22 and 35, while driving.  They allegedly forced the pair into their vehicle and took them to a storeroom where they assaulted them.  The matter was reported to the police and the men were taken to hospital for treatment for their serious injuries.  One of them gave police a statement and a case was opened, but he later succumbed to his injuries.  The other man survived.

Read the original of the report in the above regard by Riaan Grobler at News24


COMMUTING / TRANSPORT

Plan to create new entity to operate bus services in Durban opposed by Tansnat

Sunday Tribune reports that the Tansnat Durban bus company has opposed the eThekwini municipality’s plans to establish a new entity that will take over the operation of the city’s lucrative bus services.  The metro recently approved a road-map report for the establishment of an entity to improve the bus services in the city.  However, it noted in the report that the process faced severe delays as a result of court processes brought by Tansnat.  Last week, commuters were left stranded yet again after Tansnat bus drivers embarked on a strike demanding better salaries and benefits.  Drivers who claimed to have received death threats from Tansnat bosses when they asked for a salary increment, left buses on major highways blocking traffic during Monday’s peak hours.  Tansnat, which is owned by Mandla Gcaba – the nephew of former president Jacob Zuma - has been running the city buses for over a decade.  The company is locked in a multimillion-rand court battle over debt claimed by the municipality.  According to Tansnat, the debt is owed to them because of short payments made by the municipality over several years.  According to Vickesh Maharaj, Tansnat’s chief operations officer, the new municipal entity, “on any basis” will not be established for many years.  He also claimed that:  “The municipality’s feasibility projections reveals that operating the bus service through the entity will be far more expensive than the present situation.”

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Siboniso Mngadi at Sunday Tribune


OTHER HEADLINES OF INTEREST

  • Students in Nkangala TVET College in Waterval Boven living in fear following spate of rapes, at SABC News
  • “I don’t want my daughters to end up like me” says sugarcane worker, at GroundUp
  • Tow truck driver badly injured on Sunday after falling into manhole at accident scene in Soweto, at TimesLIVE

 


Get other news reports at the SA Labour News home page