WAGE NEGOTIATIONS

Zimbabwean firms call for cuts in salary and utility costs 

  • The Confederation of Zimbabwean Industries (CZI), which represents the country’s biggest industrial companies, wants the local government to introduce laws that will see salaries and utility costs cut after the plunging currencies of neighbours South Africa and Zambia made them uncompetitive.
  • “We are trying to have prices of salaries and utilities moved downwards by 25 to 30 percent through a legal instrument” said Busisa Moyo, the president of the CZI. He added that there have been calls to also devalue the currency internally (?) and the CZI has explored the possibility of such action.

STRIKES & PROTEST ACTION

SA Post Office (Sapo) and CWU

  • After being interdicted by Sapo, the Communications Workers Uniun (CWU) march in Johannesburg started off with about 100 people and grew to about 1,000 by mid-day on Thursday.
  • Sapo reported that Post Office services were not affected.
  • The main demand from the marchers was for the release of reports on corruption at Sapo by the Public Prosecutor and the Special Investigations Unit.

Nehawu Strike puts water supply at Limpopo district municipality at risk

  • National Education Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) in Limpopo on Wednesday rejected a proposal to have its striking members return to work at the Vhembe District Municipality while the council seeks money to pay millions of rands owed to them.
  • Over four hundred workers, including water specialists in the municipality, downed tools and left dams and reservoirs unattended.
  • They were protesting against what they called the municipality’s failure to ensure they were paid subsidies, which was apparnetly a condition attached to their transfer from the water affairs department to the municipality in 2005.
  • Nehawu provincial chairman Calvin Chamano said the patience of their members has been “overstretched by ten years”.  Speaking after talks with the municipality collapsed on Wednesday, Chamano said:  “Last week they promised our members that payment will be made on Friday, and it passes with nothing deposited in their accounts.  We want this to be done before they could return to work.”
  • Workers are also demanding benefits they lost when they were declared municipality officials.  A municipal spokesperson confirmed that the workers were on strike, and expressed fears that dams level were dropping.
  • This comes amid warnings of severe water shortages nationwide and the possiblity of enforced ‘load shedding’ on the water supply system.

University of Cape Town University signs agreement with Nehawu to in-source services

  • The UCT signed an historic agreement with the National Education Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) on Wednesday to in-source six of its out-sourced services.
  • Cleaning of residences, cleaning of university buildings, catering in student residences, grounds and gardening services, campus protection services and student and staff transport services will now be in-sourced after the current lease agreements expire.
  • This follows weeks of protests around student fee increases.  UCT students also protested about unfair working conditions, pushing for the in-sourcing of these services.
  • Nehawu agreed to ensure that the employees of the out-sourced companies returned to work over the next two days so that critical functions could resume.
  • Vice-chancellor Max Price said on Wednesday that UCT was aware that in-sourcing would incur significant costs.
  • Similar demands are being made at other universities nationwide on the back of the ‘No fees’ campaign.

Construction industry rejects raiding of Setas to pay for zero varsity fee

  • Several construction industry bodies have rejected suggestions that surplus funds from the Sector Education and Training Authorities (Setas) could be used to help finance government’s decision not to increase university fees next year.
  • The government’s decision will result in a R3 billion shortfall.
  • Minister of Higher Education and Training Blade Nzimande said recently the government might have to consider using “surplus funds” from Setas, but then appeared to backtrack on this view.  In Parliament on Tuesday he said:  “We need to be careful about raiding the skills levy money all the time as that could amount to robbing the poor to pay the poor.  The skills levy money is desperately needed to train workers and provide skills training to millions of youth and adults that are either unemployed or in a variety of vocational or short skills programmes and various adult education programmes.”
  • Though the industry associations have acknowledged there may appear to be surplus funds in the Setas, they insist this money can be spent in the training authorities once they are properly run.
  • Deryck Spence of the SA Paint Manufacturing Association said they believed surpluses in Setas were “industry’s money” and not the Setas’ or the minister’s to use as he saw fit.
  • Lea Smith of the Institute of Plumbing of SA said his body was categorically against Seta funds and training levies paid by the plumbing sector being applied to fund the zero university fee increase.  Some other associations have similar views.

RETRENCHMENTS

PetroSA voluntary severance package unhappiness 

  • The current voluntary severance package offered by PetroSA and which includes two weeks’ pay for every year of service at the company is seemingly not sufficiently large to attract applications.
  • The company aims to save costs after suffering a net operating loss of R14.6 billion over the past financial year following plummeting oil prices and feedstock challenges at its gas-to-liquids refinery in Mossel Bay.
  • The voluntary packages are on offer in an effort to reduce the number of forced retrenchments that could be effected soon. However the uptake is apparently low.

RETIREMENT AND PENSIONS

Government Employees Pension Fund (GEPF): Payment of interest on divorce payments

  • The GEPF is putting a halt to the practice of paying out money, when required, by members in instances when they divorce a spouse, as such pay-outs are treated as debt to the fund on the part of the members concerned, at a rate of repo, plus 3%.
  • As a result of the accumulated interest, this has meant that the so-called ‘divorce debt’ at the time of retirement takes an enormous chunk out of divorced civil servants’ pensions.
  • The GEPF’s decision comes after many complaints from its members and organisations representing them.
  • The change will take about six months to enforce since the process will have to include changing the Act that governs the GEPF.

Retirement fund reform

  • Agreement has not yet been reached between government and labour over changes to retirement fund legislation, especially around the annuitisation of provident funds on retirement.
  • This is in spite of the Taxation Laws Amendment Act (which provides for changes to retirement funds that are scheduled to be introduced in March of 2016), which has already been presented to the parliamentary standing committee.
  • If agreement is not reached it jeopardize the implementation of the Act next March.

UNION POLITICS AND DEVELOPMENTS

Numsa’s Irvin Jim accused of harassment

  • Irvin Jim, the general secretry of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa), the country’s largest union, was hit with a scathing letter accusing him of harrassment as he was about to board a flight from Paris to Johannesburg on Monday.
  • The letter, which was widely circulated on the internet, accused him of being an “immoral hypocrite” who allegedly made sexual overtures to the widow of former SA Municipal Workers’ Union (Samwu) leader Gerald Fundani, who died earlier this month after suffering a stroke.
  • In the letter, Namhla Manjezi (a parliamentary officer who is related to the widow) claims Jim called and sent SMSes to Fundani’s widow, making sexual advances and telling her to forget about her late husband and get into a relationship with him.
  • In response Jim said he wanted Mrs Fundani to “be left to grieve (for) her husband. I am protecting her. I am not commenting.”

GENERAL

EFF warns Bapo Ba Mogale Traditional Council

  • The EFF warned the Bapo council in Bapong, near Marikana (North West), that they must treat all villagers equally or face the wrath of the EFF.
  • The EFF alleged that to be employed at Lonmin a letter is needed from the council and the council refuse to give such letters to non-Setswana speaking people.
  • The allegation was made by Thulani Makhanye, the chairperson of the EFF in the Bojanala Region.  He was speaking to party supporters during a protest march at the Lonmin platinum mine in Marikana and went on to say:  “The council must stop this discrimination or we will challenge them.  I am not scared of them.  We are all South Africans.  They must not see us [as] Motswana, Sotho or Xhosa.  We are all equal and need to be respected.”
  • The 500 marchers demanded that Lonmin must employ them irrespective of whether they were Setswana-speaking or not.
  • The mine was given 14 days to respond to their demands.
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