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 roundup of weekend news, see
summaries of our selection of South African
labour-related stories that appeared since
Friday, 30 April 2021.


TOP STORY – WAGE NEGOTIATIONS

Push to get government to revise its wage offer hampered by lack of unity amongst public sector unions

City Press writes that threats of a massive public sector strike next month are being undercut by disunity amongst the public sector trade unions. The Public Servants Association (PSA), public sector trade unions affiliated to Cosatu and the Federation of Unions of SA (Fusa) recently declared a deadlock over wage increases. This was after government doubled down on National Treasury’s stance that there was no money to foot the bill for the unions’ demand of salary increases linked to inflation plus 4%. Instead, government’s “revised offer” came in the form of a proposal that the funds currently allocated for pay progression, resettlement costs for workers from one province to the other and daily allowances no longer be paid out. This money would instead be channelled towards the salary increases that state employees are demanding. While all the unions rejected government’s latest offer, describing it as “absurd”, the challenge appears to be finding common ground on how they can work together as they take on government. At present, it appears that the unions are all working independently, even while pursuing the common goal of getting the government to buckle and table a revised offer. Although there had been an expectation that the unions would meet following the stalemate with government, such an undertaking has not yet materialised, with unions choosing to “go it on their own”. The conciliation process to address the deadlock will be facilitated by the Public Service Coordinating Bargaining Council, but because the unions cannot reach consensus and have not make a joint submission, the parties might have to meet the council mediator separately. The PSA expects some sort of industrial action next month, but has not indicated whether this would be done jointly with other unions. The other unions, while also indicating that a strike was unavoidable, have not decided when the mass action would start and whether they would do it in unison. “It’s only when these unions start speaking in one voice and taking one course of action that government will start taking their demands seriously,” commented one source.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Juniour Khumalo at City Press (paywall access only). Read too, People power is Senzo Mchunu’s ‘third way’ on wage dispute, at BusinessLive (paywall access only)

Ramaphosa reaffirms government’s commitment to protect collective bargaining

The Citizen reports that President Cyril Ramaphosa on Saturday reaffirmed government’s commitment to protect collective bargaining and workers’ labour rights. Speaking at a Cosatu event in Johannesburg in honour of workers on International Workers’ Day, Ramaphosa said he believed government’s representatives and public sector unions should return to the Public Service Coordinating Bargaining Council (PSCBC) and work on a solution to the current deadlock over wage negotiations. “We should return to the bargaining table and have thoroughly ongoing negotiations with labour in this regard,” Ramaphosa stated. He addressed the event in his capacity as the president of the ANC and noted that SA had already been in a precarious economic position before the Covid-19 pandemic. Unions in the public service are threatening to embark on mass industrial action over workers’ demand for a 7.1% wage increase. This after the government stuck to its 0% wage hike last month and presented a revised offer at the PSCBC that included a review of allowances and leave for public servants, among other benefits. The Department of Public Service and Administration has described the wage talks as the most difficult in years due to the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on the state’s coffers and the need for urgent reforms in the public service. It has also called on citizens to come forward with proposals to resolve the deadlock.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Thapelo Lekabe at The Citizen

Wage negotiations at Eskom set to get under way on Tuesday

BL Premium reports that Eskom’s management and trade unions are expected to meet at the company’s bargaining forum this week to try to hammer out a new wage deal for the state-owned power utility’s employees.   Leaders of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), which represents the majority of Eskom’s 46,000-strong workforce, and the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) said the unions would be demanding a one-year, 15% wage increase. In comparison, the consumer inflation rate in March was 3.2%, while the Reserve Bank expects an average of 4.3% for 2021. The utility pays the third-highest average salary in SA — R785,557 a year — but is buckling under a R480bn debt pile and depends on government bailouts to keep the lights on and the economy functioning.   The NUM’s William Mabapa said the union was aware of the challenges facing Eskom. Calling on the Eskom management to negotiate in good faith, he said: “The failures of the company are mostly attributed to poor decision-making from both management and the shareholder. The NUM believes that the demands are reasonable and achievable. The company is doing well in recovering all the monies that were stolen. Our members deserve a share from that money.” Numsa’s Phakamile Hlubi-Majola commented: “If Eskom is prepared to give coal suppliers an increase of 14%, then our members are entitled to the same or better.”

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

With Eskom’s wage talks getting underway, Cosatu's insists in May Day call that no worker must be retrenched

Fin24 reports that labour federation Cosatu took the opportunity on 1 May to reiterate its position that no worker at state-owned power utility Eskom should be retrenched. Cosatu, whose social compact for Eskom was signed at Nedlac last year, has previously called for guarantees that there would be no retrenchments at Eskom and threatened a mass strike if jobs were cut. Cosatu president Zingiswa Losi said on Saturday:   "Cosatu’s Eskom Social Compact has been agreed to by government and business. At its heart is an agreement that no Eskom worker may be retrenched. Government must clean up the corruption and mismanagement that has brought Eskom to its knees. Those who have looted there must be arrested. Eskom must embrace a Just Transition that will see jobs being created, not destroyed. The economy needs reliable and affordable electricity if it is to recover." She added that Eskom's recovery plan was a central pillar of the country's economic recovery. Wage negotiations are set to commence at the power utility this week. The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) and Solidarity are negotiating for increases for non-managerial employees, with talks scheduled to continue for a month. The NUM, which is the largest union at Eskom, wants a 15% increase with a housing allowance increase to R7,000, while Numsa is seeking a 15% increase.   Solidarity wants a 9.5% increase and a work-from-home allowance.

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


INDUSTRIAL ACTION / STRIKES

Joburg’s Metrobus commuters likely to be left in the lurch as drivers go on strike on Monday

EWN reports that on Monday morning it was all systems go for a Metrobus worker’s strike. Commuters using the Johannesburg bus service would likely have to find alternative transport following the Democratic Municipal and Allied Workers Union of SA’s (Demawusa)'s announcement of an indefinite strike.   The service covers over 300 scheduled routes, including 128 school routes, and more than 30,000 commuters use the transport service daily. Apparently, the parties failed to resolve a list of demands set out by the union at the bargaining council. Salary disparities, corruption and unfair dismissals are just some of the issues highlighted by disgruntled Metrobus workers. Demawusa said its members would not report for duty until their demands were met. Deputy general secretary Dion Makhura commented: “The strike will continue indefinitely; it means until such time as Metrobus agrees to our demands, [we will continue to strike]. It’s an unfortunate situation that at the end of the day commuters are going to suffer the consequences. It is beyond our control.” Meanwhile, Metrobus has assured commuters it intended to do all it could to ensure the impact of the strike was limited.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Veronica Mokhoali at EWN


MINING LABOUR

Mining Charter court hearing on ‘once-empowered, always-empowered’ to start on Monday

Miningmx reports that the Mining Charter will be back in court this week when producers and government face off over the issue of “continuing consequences”, also known as the “once-empowered, always-empowered principle”. The Department of Mineral Resources & Energy (DMRE) gazetted a third iteration of the 2004 Mining Charter in 2018. Whilst most of its third Mining Charter’s contents met with industry agreement, there was disagreement on a requirement that a mining licence renewal or the transfer of a licence required a new empowerment transaction. In terms of the Mining Charter III, the empowerment ownership threshold of a mining right was retained at 26% except for new mining right applications in which case the target was set at 30%.   According to the Minerals Council SA (MCSA), previous empowerment efforts should be recognised (‘once-empowered, always-empowered’). The court action – which is formally described as an application brought by the MCSA (previously called the Chamber of Mines) for the judicial review and setting aside of certain clauses of the 2018 Mining Charter – is scheduled for hearing from 3 to 6 May in the North Gauteng High Court. The matter was previously heard on 5 May 2020, when the court ordered that a number of other parties be joined to the action, including various community organisations, trade unions named by the court and the SA Mining Development Association.

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


SAA BUSINESS RESCUE

SAA business rescue finally over, but subsidiaries in dire straights

BusinessLive reports that the business rescue practitioners (BRPs) of SA Airways (SAA) handed the airline back to its interim board and management on Friday and filed a substantive report of implementation to bring the business rescue process to an end. This was despite the airline having not yet received the full R10.3bn required to fund the rescue plan. So far, only R7.8bn of the amount has flowed, leaving several outstanding liabilities still to be paid. SAA will also need additional working capital to resume operations.   SAA has been in business rescue since December 2019. In a statement, the BRPs said the airline was now “solvent and liquid” and the remaining debt would be paid through the receivership, an account that will manage the accounts of the “old SAA”. The remaining liabilities are for concurrent creditors (R600m), lessors (R1.7bn) and unflown ticket liabilities, and will be paid over three years. Due to a funding shortfall and the Covid-19 pandemic, the airline is nowhere near ready to resume full operations. According to interim CEO Thomas Kgokolo, who was appointed during April, some operations may resume in July. Meanwhile, SAA’s subsidiaries, namely SA Airways Technical, Airchefs and Mango, are in dire straits. Attempts to divert money from SAA to them has not yet been possible due to delayed parliamentary processes and Treasury red tape. Mango was forced to temporarily halt operations last week and SAA Technical commenced retrenchment operations.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Carol Paton at BusinessLive


STAFF RETRENCHMENTS / COMPANY JOB CUTS

SABC hasn’t yet paid all severance packages due to retrenched employees

City Press reports that some of the retrenched SA Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) employees are at risk of losing their cars and houses because the public broadcaster has not yet paid their severance packages. On Friday, Mmoni Seapolelo, the acting SABC spokesperson, said the process to pay the former employees was under way: “The SABC can confirm that the process of the payments of severance packages has begun. The finalisation of the settlement of all these packages is anticipated to be concluded shortly, with the majority of the payments having already taken place.”   However, the public broadcaster would not comment on the negative impact the delays have had on some to its former staffers. One of the ex-employees pointed out that he had opted for a voluntary retrenchment early this year because he expected the SABC to deliver on its commitment. “My colleagues who left in January have not been paid. We accepted retrenchments with an expectation that the SABC would fulfil its obligations, but we have not been paid. You can’t tell people to take retrenchment packages and then not deliver. Some of us are unemployed. We’ve got bills to pay,” he lamented. Hannes du Buisson of the Broadcasting, Electronic, Media and Allied Workers Union (Bemawu) said on Friday that, due to the delays in the payouts, the union had lodged a dispute with the CCMA as more than 40 of its members were affected. Aubrey Tshabalala of the Communication Workers Union (CWU) said the SABC management’s arrogance and inability to run the entity had been exposed. The public broadcaster announced the job cuts last year and served employees with notices in June, but the process took almost 10 months to finalise.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Msindisi Fengu at City Press (paywall access only)


SALARY PAYMENTS

SABC’s incorrectly programmed leave system leaves some staff unpaid

SowetanLive reports that an incorrectly programmed human resources system has led to several SA Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) fixed-term contract employees getting zero salaries following extensive deductions. The error saw a number of SABC employees across all regions getting more leave than what was due to them for four years. But, the error was only picked up this year, which led the public broadcaster making deductions in April from employees' salaries. In a letter to employees on 9 April, the SABC indicated that the leave IT system had erroneously not calculated Saturdays and Sundays that had fallen within an employee's period of leave as having been taken as part of an employee's leave. "It has been established that owing to a SAP configuration in April 2017, weekend leave days have been included in leave deductions for fixed-term contracts employees... the system configuration was corrected in March 2021 and your leave balance updated accordingly," the letter stated.   The error led to some employees owing the SABC significant amounts of money, which was deducted from their April salaries. Some employees received payslips showing negative amounts, meaning they still owed the public broadcaster. The deductions have forced unions to consider taking legal action to force the SABC to rectify the affected employees' salaries with immediate effect.   Broadcasting, Electronic, Media and Allied Workers Union president Hannes du Buisson said this was shocking and was indicative of a management that “does not care about its employees."

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Isaac Mahlangu at SowetanLive. Read too, SABC says it's on the mend and has paid all staff salaries, at TimesLIVE

Cash-strapped ANC struggling to pay salaries as Sars nabs party’s IEC allocation to pay off PAYE debt

Sunday Times reports that the SA Revenue Service (Sars) is said to have garnisheed the ANC's Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) allocation funds – taking away R17m meant for the governing party – in part-payment of the party's ballooning tax bill. This has resulted in the ANC again failing to pay its employees their salaries on time last month. In a note, Luthuli House general manager Febe Potgieter told staff on Friday about the late payment: “Due to continued financial difficulties, this situation of uncertainty with regard to the exact date of payment of salaries is likely to continue for the coming three to six months.” According to party insiders, the ANC owes Sars millions, going back to when Jacob Zuma was its president and Zweli Mkhize was the ANC treasurer-general.   The IEC allocates R168m a year to all political parties in parliament. The money is distributed quarterly and R17m was the ANC’s share for the first quarter. Apparently, the party failed to settle millions of rands in PAYE (pay as you earn) tax owed to Sars. The money was seemingly deducted from ANC employees’ wages, but not paid across to Sars. In effect, what is happening now is that Sars is taking the money directly from the IEC in the form of a garnishee arrangement.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Kgothatso Madisa on page 1 of Sunday Times of 2 May 2021


TRANSFORMATION / ESOPS

Ebrahim Patel to publish practice note on employee ownership and other broad-based ownership schemes

Engineering News reports that Trade, Industry and Competition Minister Ebrahim Patel has been drafting guidelines on employee ownership and other broad-based ownership schemes and intends and intends this week to publish a practice note dealing with some clarifications around community trusts and individual ownership schemes. Additionally, the Minister and his department are creating a register of companies that have implemented employee share ownership plans (Esops).   More than 150,000 SA employees are part-owners of the companies they work for through shareholdings in those firms. Patel estimates that more than R100-billion of value has been transferred to employees.   The Department of Trade, Industry and Competition is also engaging with business and labour through the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) to determine the best way forward with broad-based ownership schemes, including having worker representation at board level. Thereafter, the Minister intends to amend the Companies Act accordingly. These discussions include the rationale for worker representation on boards, the challenges that will need to be overcome and the ideal mix of mandatory and voluntary arrangements. On 30 April, Patel hosted a briefing on employee ownership structures, in light of the importance of broad-based transformation in addressing past challenges and reigniting the SA economy. Cosatu’s Tony Ehrenreich highlighted how the union sees benefits of Esops beyond financial gain for employees, in that these schemes reduced inequality and improved lives, while increasing overall productivity levels.

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


WORKPLACE FRAUD / CORRUPTION

Three Rand West Municipality employees jailed for stealing R3.5m from staff savings scheme

News24 reports that the Specialised Commercial Crimes Court sitting in the Palm Ridge Magistrate's Court on Friday sentenced three Rand West Municipality employees to a combined 31 years for stealing R3.5 million from a workers savings scheme. According to the National Prosecutions Authority (NPA), Jacky Tshabalala, Letitia Mafuta and Anna Mdangane had faced 16 counts of theft of R3.5 million between 2017 and 2018. Tshabalala, who was employed in the payroll department and had direct access to the funds, was sentenced to 15 years. Mafuta and Mdangane were both sentenced to eight years, half of which was suspended for five years. NPA spokesperson Phindi Mjonondwane said the thefts happened after employees at the municipality, through their union Samwu, received approval from the chief financial officer to start a savings scheme called the Abasebenzi Christmas Club.   Workers' contributions were deducted from salaries using the payroll system and then paid into the club bank account. The three were signatories and administrators of the account. "The municipality has a legal duty to pay the Skills Development (SDL) levy to SARS every month through their payroll system. The social club account and the SDL account were linked together and caused the funds allocated to the SDL to be erroneously deposited into the club's account. The three then stole these funds from the club's account and transferred them into their private bank accounts," Mjonondwane explained. Prosecutor Frans Mhlongo argued that the women’s offences were very serious and worsened by the fact that the employer trusted them to administer the funds on behalf of their colleagues.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Getrude Makhafola at News24

 


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