HEADLINES

Chamber of Mines: Coal mines’ agreement

Agreement has been reached at the Chamber of Mines that brings an end to the strike embarked upon by the NUM (which also brings to a close the months-long wage negotiations). The agreement was concluded between the Chamber and NUM, Soldarity and UASA and provided for, among others, the following:

  • The agreement is for two years covering the 2015/16 and 2016/17 periods.
  • Increases of varying amounts (with increase dates also spread throughout the year in some instanced) have been awarded, depending on the respective mining group and job category.
  • The increases range between about 14% at the lowest level to about 5% at higher levels. Artisan levels are averaging between 5 and 7,5%.
  • Various other conditions of employment have also been improved (e.g. housing and travel allowances), the most notable being a guaranteed minimum payout of R30,000 in the event of retrenchment.
  • The average increases for the second year is around 7,5%.
  •  in a potential deal worth around $106 billion.

Fawu and SAB-Miller – AbInBev deal

  • The Food and Allied Workers Union (Fawu) general secretary Katishi Masemola says the union is not in favour of the proposed billion dollar deal between SABMiller and AbInBev and will make submissions for the transaction to be opposed.
  • This comes after global beer giant SABMiller accepted “in principle” a new takeover bid from rival brewer, Anheuser-Busch InBev.
  • Masemola said transactions of this nature did not benefit workers in any manner and that the union had every intention of putting its efforts together with international food worker unions to oppose the deal.
  • Fawu will also liaise with the Competition Commission and will seek an urgent meeting with SAB Miller management.  Masemola has cited job losses as a major concern, saying:  “The history of mergers and acquisitions suggests that the next effect will be reduced staff complement, so we are worried about job security.”  The proposed ‘mega merger’ could see the world’s two biggest brewers joining forces

WAGE NEGOTIATIONS

Chamber of Mines: Gold Mines

  • Amcu continues to reject the proposed settlement in the gold sector wage negotiations.
  • The settlements concluded to date with NUM, Solidarity and UASA, ranges between 10 and 13%, depending on the category and the mining house.
  • Amcu held member meetings a week ago and received a mandate for strike action at Sibanye mines. However the union’s president, Joseph Mathunjwa, indicated that strike action is not their first choice and they are awaiting further dates for discussions with Sibanye. It is evident that he is seeking an agreement slightly better than that which the NUM negotiated.
  • Amcu is also putting pressure on the Labour Appeal Court (LAC) regarding a ruling on the union’s legal right to strike at AngloGold Ashanti (AGA) and Harmony Gold.  Mathunjwa indicated that the LAC judgment was necessary to provide clarity on the right to strike at AGA and Harmony for the union to decide on how to proceed in the sector as a whole.
  • On Tuesday the NUM signed a three-year wage deal with Pan African Resources’ Evander Gold Mine for pay hikes of 14% for the lowest paid workers. The NUM indicated that workers would receive increases of R700 a month for three years and a R100 increase in the housing allowance.

Fawu and the Ceres fruit growers

  • Workers employed at Ceres Fruit Growers (CFG) returned to work on Thursday after an agreement was reached following a six-week strike over wage increases.
  • Fawu general secretary Katishi Masemola said a settlement of 8.25% was reached on Tuesday evening. Employees will also be given a R500 ‘sweetener’ payout.
  • Fawu went on strike to demand a 12.5% wage increase and a profit-sharing scheme for workers, at which time the company was offering 7.5% and other increased benefits.

RETRENCHMENTS

NUM’s retrenchment claims at Eskom

  • Eskom denied claims by the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) that it planned to dismiss 331 employees across its operations as a result of changes to its business model.
  • The union claimed Eskom planned to retrench 217 workers on fixed-term contracts and 114 on labour broker contracts, and that the employment contracts of 26 staff members at Eskom Park, in eMalahleni, had also been cancelled on 30 September.
  • It further accused Eskom of attempting to bypass amendments to the Labour Relations Act which placed restrictions on the continued use of temporary workers.

Eskom spokesperson Khulu Phasiwe indicated that the utility was unaware of these planned dismissals and that “perhaps the NUM is trying to create unnecessary panic”.

STRIKES & PROTEST ACTION

Nehawu and the courts

  • National Education Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) members who work in the courts as clerks, stenographers and interpreters in Gauteng are set to embark on strike action from 28 October 2015 if their demands are not met before that date.
  • The strike, which will be protected, could involve nearly 5,000 court officials and affect 60 Gauteng courts.
  • Nehawu called the strike after the union failed to reach a compromise with the justice and the correctional services departments regarding a string of grievances, including tender corruption, nepotism, promotion of staff without the necessary qualifications into posts not advertised and employees on lower pay levels doing the work of higher-paid colleagues.
  • Nehawu also wants justice department director-general Nonkululeko Sindane to be removed because she has failed to respond to the union’s complaints.
  • Nehawu has 4,680 members working in the Justice Department.
  • The union intentds presenting a memorandum of grievances to Justice Minister Michael Masutha and Sindane, but will proceed with strike action, nationwide, if it does not receive a satisfactory response.

Burgersfort/Steelpoort community action

  • The Burgersfort/Steelpoort area remains tense after angry protesters, who are demanding that a nearby mining company employ locals, set two trucks alight along the R555 road near Burgersfort, Limpopo, during a protest on Tuesday.
  • Burgersfort police spokesperson Constable Victoria Maluleke said the protesters barricaded roads with stones and burning tyres.
  • Protesters have now opened an illegal tollgate forcing motorists to pay before they can proceed with their journey.  No arrests have been made and police are patrolling the area.
  • In July, Mampuru community members torched a truck along the same stretch during a protest in Bugersfort.

Numsa march against corruption

  • Although the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) march against corruption last Wednesday was restricted to Johannesburg, it appeard more successful and vocal than the march by its rival Cosatu the previous week.
  • It is unlikely that eeither march will achieve much other than escalte a power play between the two groupings.
  • Several Numsa shop stewards were reported to have intimidated members to participate in the march.

Johannesburg City Power and Samwu 

  • The threatened strike that could have crippled Johannesburg’s power supply has been averted.
  • This emerged after City Power’s chairman, the Rev Frank Chikane, and other board members met the SA Municipal Workers’ Union (Samwu) to discuss solutions to the union’s grievances.
  • Samwu regional deputy secretary Paul Tlhabang confirmed the union’s planned strike against City Power on Monday had been suspended for two weeks to allow both parties to reach an agreement.  “We have agreed with City Power that more detailed information is required, so we agreed to create a process to deal with the issues raised with them.  This process will commence immediately and will conclude within the next two weeks,” Tlhabang indicated.
  • The union wants City Power’s managing director Sicelo Xulu suspended for allegedly unilaterally implementing salary increases for certain employees without following the proper procedures and City Power’s human resources policies.
  • Meantime, the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) said it had declined to issue a strike certificate to Samwu.

Natu pleads for teachers to be afforded access to portion of pension savings

  • The National Teachers Union (Natu) intends handing a petition of at least 100,000 signatories to the Presidency and the ministers of finance and public service to have them consider allowing cash-strapped teachers access to a portion of their pensions.
  • This was the only way to stem the tide of teachers taking early retirement, Natu deputy president Allen Thompson said on Wednesday.
  • He indicated that the petition had been distributed to schools, police stations and hospitals.
  • The country saw an unusually high number of the premature resignations and retirements last year, Thompson said, pegging the numbers at 14,302 nationally and about 5,000 in KwaZulu-Natal.
  • A rumour last year that teachers would no longer have access to part of their pensions on retirement saw many panic and leave the profession.  Thompson stated:  “The fact of the matter is that the majority of public service employees are experiencing severe and sustained financial difficulties, mainly due to a treacherous downturn and shrinkage of both the domestic and global economies.”
  • He also said that Natu’s attorneys were to challenge the government on the subsidies it paid to teachers who were not on the government medical aid scheme.  Teachers belonging to the government employees’ medical scheme were subsidised at a rate three times higher than teachers who were not, Thompson said, calling it “unlawful”.
  • Turning to Grade R practitioners, Thompson said that thousands of Grade R practitioners in KZN remained underpaid and were threatening to strike.

GENERAL

SA Municipal Workers’ Union (Samwu)

  • A former leader of Samwu and three other top officials were arrested by the Hawks on Tuesday.
  • It is understood that the Hawks carried out an operation against the officials suspected of being involved in some of the financial irregularities at Samwu.
  • The union covered up a Hawks raid at its head office in Johannesburg last month where files were seized.
  • According to the union, the arrests took place in a “theatrical performance” at a meeting of its Central Executive Committee (CEC) on Tuesday, “wherein a large contingent of police army descended and disrupted our meeting when they came to arrest three officials. The large police contingent came and disrupted the meeting wielding their R5 and handguns at the CEC delegates.”
  • Samwu added in a statement:  “We believe that this is political and that whoever is behind this used the police to disrupt our CEC so that the meeting cannot discuss serious issues faced by the union.”
  • The union has been struggling to shake off a cloud of suspicion since the disappearance of R136m from its coffers.

Cosatu to set up task team to deal with fights in many affiliates

  • The SA Transport and Allied Workers’ Union (Satawu) has split for the second time in three years, prompting labour federation Cosatu to set up a task team to deal with the bitter fights within many of its affiliates.
  • The Chemical Energy Paper Printing Wood and Allied Workers’ Union (Ceppwawu) and the SA African Municipal Workers’ Union (Samwu) are also facing deep divisions, mainly over the former’s R4bn investment company and a R50m corruption scandal in the latter.
  • Former Satawu president June Dube resigned on Wednesday following his suspension by the union in August.  On 24 September, he was elected to lead a breakaway union known as the Democratic Transport and Allied Workers Union (Detawu).  This follows a 2012 breakaway by then president Ephraim Mphahlele, who formed the National Transport Movement (NTM), which replaced Satawu as the majority union at SA Airways.
  • The Satawu breakaway is the fourth in a Cosatu-aligned union in the last year.
  • Cosatu spokesman Sizwe Pamla said the federation had discussed the issue of affiliates experiencing problems at a special central executive committee (CEC) meeting this week.  The decisions are expected to be announced this week.
  • The Cosatu national leadership apparently set up a task team drawn from its central executive committee, which would intervene in troubled unions.  The team would be empowered to take decisions, intervene and report back to the CEC.

Chairperson of presidential remuneration commission steps down

  • Former Chief Justice Sandile Ngcobo has requested he be relieved of his duties as chairperson of the Commission of Inquiry into the Remuneration and Conditions of Service in the Public Service and Public Entities.
  • President Jacob Zuma appointed the Commission in August 2013 after first announcing it in the State of the Nation Address of February 2013.
  • The Commission’s function is to examine and redress conditions of employment in the public sector.
  • Matters being probed by the Commission include organisational development, job evaluation and grading, recruitment, appointments and promotions, as well as human resource planning.
  • The Commission was instructed to give priority attention to the remuneration of educators.
  • President Zuma released a statement saying he accepted Ngcobo’s resignation.  The president said he would announce a new chairperson in due course.
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