SALARY INCREASES & WAGE NEGOTIATIONS

Fawu strike at Du Toit Agri Group

  • About 1,500 workers, all members of the Food and Allied Worker’s Union (Fawu) employed by the Du Toit Agri Group in Ceres, Prince Alfred Hamlet and Humansdorp have been strike since last week Thursday.
  • The company is a packer and exporter of fruit and vegetables.
  • Fawu indicated that the strike is about their wage demand of 9,5% (depending on the region) whilst the company is offering 8,25%. Fawu members are also aggrieved about the wage gap between workers in the various areas, saying: “Our members are also aggrieved over the huge wage gaps between workers in the Western Cape as opposed to those working at Langkloof in Humansdorp, Eastern Cape. Our members in the Western Cape earn about R1,200 per week while those at Langkloof Cape earn the same amount in a fortnight.  In order to reduce the wage gap, employees in Humansdorp are asking for a 10.5% wage increase.”
  • The strike also relates to the company’s proposal to grant new employees a 2% provident fund contribution, while permanent union members are apparently already at 5% with the employer contributing the other 5%.

Public servants dispute regarding housing allowance

  • Public service unions affiliated to labour federation Cosatu last Monday declared a dispute because the government has failed to make good on its commitment to increase housing allowances.
  • The public sector/service unions currently comprise the biggest unions in the ANC-alligned federation.
  • While the unions stopped short of threatening to strike, they made their frustrations clear.
  • Mugwena Maluleke, convenor of the unions concerned, said they were infuriated by the state’s failure to implement the parties’ current agreement on the Government Employees Housing Scheme (GEHS).
  • The deal, which forms part of the three-year wage agreement signed in June, states that the housing allowance for all qualifying employees must be hiked from R900 to R1,200 for those who pay housing loans as well as for those who have dwellings in the rural areas.  Maluleke stated that the increase was supposed to have been implemented in July, but a series of reasons has been put forward for the non-payment.
  • He went on to indicate that, frustrated by the “bureaucratic merry-go-round” in this regard and the lack of urgency from the government, a dispute was consequently declared at the Public Service Co-ordinating Bargaining Council (PSCBC).
  • The unions were currently waiting for the council to set the matter down for dispute resolution.  The Department of Public Service and Administration was not available for comment.

Presidential Remuneration Review Commission

  • The Presidential Remuneration Review Commission (PRRC), appointed by President Jacob Zuma, says it is ready to start analysing written submissions made by various stakeholders in the public service and will conclude its work in October 2017.
  • The commission, which is looking into remuneration and conditions of service, indicated that a total of 216 written submissions have been made, including 78 submissions from stakeholders in the education sector, 117 submissions from the public service sector and 21 from public entities.
  • Issues that the commission is required to investigate include service delivery, recruitment, promotion and retention, performance management, job evaluation, grading and the fiscal sustainability of the wage bill.
  • The commission is presently headed by Dr Vincent Maphai, as an interim measure. Former Chief Justic Sandile Ngcobo headed the PRRC until October when he stepped down due to work commitments. A new chairperson is expected to be appointed by the president shortly. 

AngloGold’s Venkat on the Gold wage agreement

  • The South African gold mining industry did not achieve its stated aim of negotiating a compact agreement for its sustainable future with organised labour in the 2015 wage negotiations.
  • That’s the blunt assessment from AngloGold Ashanti CEO, Srinivasan Venkatakrishnan (Venkat).
  • However, he added that “… at the same time we did not come away with nothing either.  There were a number of plusses which include the fact that we secured a three-year wage agreement for the first time in the industry in my memory.”
  • However the agreements reached with the unions in October fall well short of what Venkat and other industry executives stated as requirements when the negotiations began in June.
  • No agreement was struck linking pay to productivity, something the gold producers have been trying to negotiate with the unions for more than a decade without success.
  • And significantly, the agreement is with only three of the four main unions – the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), Solidarity and Uasa.
  • The hard-line Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) is still holding out, which has raised the possibility of strike action still to come in 2016.

RETRENCHMENTS

Telkom-Cell C merger

  • A possible Cell C-Telkom merger could see job losses for both companies, but analysts believe these will likely be minimal.
  • Telkom this week confirmed that it is in talks to buy all of the shares of rival Cell C.
  • “I don’t think Cell C suffers from an excessive staff complement and if anything has been focusing on cost optimisation and increasing efficiency,” said Richard Hurst, a senior analyst at Ovum, who went on to add:  “I think that staff cut-backs are a reality in the industry but it’s just a matter of where we are in the cycle of market development.”
  • Africa Analysis MD Dobek Pater agreed, noting that Cell C has expanded its subscriber base considerably over the past two years but has not increased its staff in tandem.  “In fact, it went through a round of staff reductions about a year ago,” he pointed out.
  • Telkom ran into trouble with unions earlier this year when they tried to retrench staff as part of its ongoing turnaround strategy and Solidarity successfully took it to court, arguing that due process had not been followed.

Glencore’s Mopani Copper Mines achieves agreement to retrench 

  • Glencore’s Mopani Copper Mines, which is the largest copper producer in Zambia, became the first mine in the country that could achieve support from unions and government to continue with the retrenchment of employees.
  • The agreement was reached within the timeframe specified by Zambian law and notices to affected employees will be issued before month-end.
  • The retrenchments, as well as reduction in contractor numbers, will see the employees of the mine being reduced by almost 50%.
  • The strategy that was adopted by the directors of the Company, and into which both the Zambian government and the union (MUZ) bought into, saves the mine from closure and also provides a foundation for strong future growth.

EMPLOYEE BENEFITS

Cosatu, ANC concerned over possible fallout of provident annuitisation law

  • Both Cosatu and ANC MPs are worried about the political fall-out should the Treasury go ahead with its proposal to enforce the partial annuitisation of provident fund savings on retirement.
  • The Treasury is proposing a March 1, 2016 implementation date, but Cosatu is yet again pleading for a delay.
  • It is concerned that workers will continue to resign from their jobs in far greater numbers than in the past, due to fears they will lose access to their savings
  • The parliamentary standing committee on finance is due to vote on the proposal on Friday.
  • Under the proposal, it will be compulsory to annuitise two-thirds of provident fund assets on retirement instead of workers being entitled to take the full amount as a cash lump sum.  Yet, few workers would be immediately affected as the proposals include vested rights for existing members.

INDUSTRIAL ACTION AND DEMONSTRATIONS

Striking parliamentary staff

  • Parliamentary staff belonging to the National Education Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) commenced strike action last week and threatened to bring the operations of the national legislature to a standstill.
  • Nehawu representatives and parliamentary management were locked in talks until late on Friday to try and resolve the union’s grievances and keep the legislature running.
  • Secretary to Parliament, Gengezi Mgidlana, indicated that he was confident that parliamentary operations would be kept running with non-Nehawu staff and parliamentary management implementing contingency plans.
  • The union is demanding higher performance bonuses, better pay and pension benefits, an end to outsourcing of services at the legislature, and for Parliament to abandon the controversial process of re-vetting all staff for security purposes.
  • According to Mgidlana, the cost to accede to all these demands would be in ecxcess of R50m.
  • In further developments, Parliament has taken recourse to an interdict dating back to 2010 to prevent striking staff from disrupting the work of the legislature. 

Recognition of Fawu at Limpopo banana farm

  • The five-day strike involving more than 2,000 workers at organic banana producer Umbhaba Banana Estates Farms would continue indefinitely according to Fawu.
  • The Mpumalanga-based estate accounts for around 20% of the local market.
  • Fawu general secretary, Katishi Masemola, said the union was fighting to get the banana producer to allow all employees to exercise their rights to join labour unions.

Phalaborwa hospital workers on wildcat strike

  • Patients were stranded at Maphutha Malatji Hospital in Namakgale outside Phalaborwa last Tuesday as some workers, including nurses, embarked on a wildcat strike.
  • The strikers were demanding the reinstatement of dismissed colleagues.
  • Namakgale is a large township located approxiatley 12 km outside Phalaborwa in the Mopani District of Limpopo.
  • Angry workers allegedly stormed into the offices of senior managers and chased them out, causing panic.
  • Provincial health department spokesperson Macks Lesufi confirmed that there was a wildcat strike at the hospital, but said he was still locked in a meeting and would comment later.

UJ shop steward rubbishes insourcing agreement

  • A shop steward claimed that the agreement signed between the University of Johannesburg (UJ) and worker representatives was concluded without protesters’ consent.
  • The protestors have been deamnding an end to the outsourcing of services and staff.
  • UJ workers’ shop steward Fezeka Ntlebi claimed the signatories didn’t have a mandate from protesters to meet with Vice Chancellor Ihron Rensburg to sign any agreement on “insourcing of staff”. 
  • In terms of the memorandum of agreement signed last Sunday, the outsourced cleaning, protection, and gardening services would be insourced according to an agreed insourcing plan, and workers currently performing these services would be transferred through an agreed process to the university payroll.

Worker-student alliance denounces UCT insourcing deal

  • On a similar note, a worker-student alliance has accused trade union Nehawu and the management of the University of Cape Town (UCT) of being vague about an insourcing agreement, but both have denied it.
  • Workers and students say the agreement is illegitimate for many reasons, mainly because shop stewards undermined reporting back to all workers, including those not represented by Nehawu.
  • The alliance stated that the agreement made no mention of medical aid benefits, pension fund increases and counselling for workers, while there was also no clarity about wages and why a six-month period was necessary before workers were going to be insourced.

UNION POLITICS AND DEVELOPMENTS

Possible rationalisation of Cosatu unions

  • Cosatu will discuss a contentious resolution at its forthcoming congress that could essentially eliminate smaller unions in the federation.
  • Police union Popcru is pushing for a minium membership threshhold, a proposal that is regarded as another way of implementing the federation’s “one sector, one union” policy.
  • This comes as a number of Cosatu unions have experienced breakaways and contestation for members is increasing not only within Cosatu but across federations and unions nationwide.
  • The resolution, circulated to Cosatu structures for discussion, has already caused panic among smaller unions in the federation.  It points to the “mushrooming of smaller unions aimed at weakening the existing unions” that organize in a particular sector or industry. The statement also points to the fact that smaller unions, with membership as low as 1,000, enjoy the same status as bigger unions within the federation.
  • Popcru argues that should this trend continue, Cosatu’s internal democracy could be undermined and it is therefore calling for a minimum membership requirement” for those new unions wanting to affiliate to Cosatu while “current affiliates with lesser numbers should be given a time frame to meet minimum requirements”.

Cosatu’s national congress: Winding-up of investment company 

  • Cosatu’s investment company, Kopano ke Matla, is to be shut down.
  • According to acting general secretary Bheki Ntshalintshali’s organisational report to Cosatu’s national congress, which will commence on November 23, winding up Kopano would help the federation emerge from its financial difficulties.
  • According to the report, the move has the backing of general secretaries from a number of affiliates.
  • Ntshalintshali said that corporate governance within Kopano was a mess and the federation would release a full report into the state of the investment company this week.

Cosatu’s national congress: Corruption 

  • Cosatu has bemoaned “business unionism” and rampant corruption in its ranks in a frank political report to be discussed at its upcoming national congress.
  • It also admits that federation leaders cannot intervene in many instances of corruption because of factional fights across the federation over union resources and investment companies.
  • According to Ntshalintshali’s report, “service to members gets treated as a second priority” in favour of “activities which create possibilities of accumulation”.
  • The federation also describes how some unions bankroll other unions to “promote” or “control” them to support their own views in Cosatu’s leadership structure.

Numsa won’t be appealing against its expulsion from Cosatu

  • The National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) will not appeal its expulsion from Cosatu at the labour federation’s national congress.
  • The decision was unanimously agreed by Numsa’s nine regions.

MARIKANA & LONMIN’S RIGHTS ISSUE

Marikana: Ramaphosa served with summons

  • A summons has been served on lawyers of Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa arising from the Marikana tragedy.
  • Ramaphosa’s role in the Marikana events saw representatives of the victims blaming him for the police’s action.  At the time, he was a director and shareholder of Lonmin and was involved in email exchanges with authorities in the days leading up to the shooting.
  • Meanwhile‚ Ramaphosa told MPs that preparations for an alternative dispute resolution mechanism regarding civil claims stemming from the Marikana tragedy was ongoing, adding that President Zuma would make an announcemetn once the process was concluded. 

Lonmin’s rights issue

  • The Public Investment Corporation has said Lonmin must be supported in its rights issue to save the company.
  • Lonmin, in which the PIC holds a 7.65% stake, will issue 27 billion shares at a 94% discount during the rights offer, which was prompted by the departure of majority shareholder Glencore in June (which held a 27% stake).
  • However critics believe the rights move will make it hard for any one party to take a controlling stake, therefore decision-making will rest with Lonmin’s much-criticised management team and board.
  • The PIC’s chief Daniel Matjila has said the move must be supported if it will save the company, but added that management changes and majority local ownership ought to be included in discussion.
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