SALARY INCREASES & WAGE NEGOTIATIONS

Sibanye Gold and Amcu

  • Sibanye Gold says it will not hold further wage talks with the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) over wage increases following four months of negotiations.
  • Amcu members voted in October to strike in the gold sector, including at Sibanye, but agreed not to down tools immediately pending talks with the gold producer.
  • The union wants its members to be paid R12,500 per month, more than double their current wages of around R5,700.
  • Sibanye’s decision to rule out further talks, as well as its insistence that the union’s members should accept a pay agreement signed with other unions some weeks ago, could trigger a reaction from the uncompromising union.  “As far as we are concerned, wage talks are over.  We have now implemented the wage agreement at all of our operations,” company spokesman James Wellsted said.
  • “Our right to strike is enshrined in the constitution,” Amcu’s Manzini Zungu retorted.   

Minimum wage increase for Expanded Public Works Programme participants

  • The prescribed minimum wage of Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) participants has increased to R78.86 from R75.10 per day, or per task performed, with immediate effect.
  • The EPWP wage increase is determined by a so-called Ministerial Determination and adjusted annually and accordingly and in line with the current inflation rate.
  • Acting EPWP Deputy Director-General, Kelebogile Sethibelo, urged those implementing the programme “to timeously adjust the EPWP participants wage accordingly and comply with the requirements”.  She noted that the objective of the EPWP Phase 3 was “to provide work opportunities and income support to poor and unemployed people through the labour-intensive delivery of public and community assets and services‚ thereby contributing to development”.
  • The EPWP Phase 3 is aimed at creating a set target of six million work opportunities over a five year period.

Minimum wage talks

  • Talks to introduce a national minimum wage have hit a snag on the minimum amount which workers – especially unskilled and semi-skilled workers – should get.
  • The impasse between government, business and trade unions at Nedlac is also centred on the argument on the part of business that a minimum wage would lead to job losses.
  • This update is contained in a report that acting Cosatu general secretary Bheki Ntshalintshali will present to the labour federation’s upcoming national congress later this month.
  • State Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa has been leading the government’s efforts at Nedlac in trying to achieve an acceptable minimum wage, while parliament has been conducting public hearings into how the minimum wage should be enforced.
  • Ntshalintshali’s report to Cosatu indicates the following:  “At the time of writing, business was indicating that they were not interested in a national minimum wage based on their evidence of poverty levels.  They were indicating that the rate should be set largely based on possible jobs and profit impacts.  Labour’s view is that while potential job impacts should not be ignored, the potential for job losses needed to be mitigated by putting in place appropriate industrial policies to protect and grow jobs in targeted sectors.”
  • Other areas of disagreement apparently relate to the possible exclusion of EPWPs, lower rates for youth and approaches to dealing with non-compliance.

Amcu and Aquarius

  • Aquarius faces a stand-off with Amcu at its platinum mines.
  • The company concluded in 2014 a three-year agreement with the National Union of Mineworkers (Num). However, the Num was later replaced as the majority union at the mines by Amcu, who at the time confirmed that they would honour the agreement. Amcu seemingly agreed to this condition pending the company re-opening negotiations of the agreement in 2016, when the other platinum agreements become re-negotiable.
  • The sticking point now is an inability to reach consensus on the issue of re-opening negotiations in 2015/16 Amcu indicated, following a mass meeting of its members who say they will not let go of their R12,500 wage demand.

NUM and Amcu clash over coal wage negotiations

  • In their continuing battle for membership, the Num has accused its rival Amcu of being economical with the truth about its role in the recent coal wage negotiations (of which Amcu was not part of).
  • The coal negotiations, which witnessed a relatively short-lived strike, were concluded with a two-year agreement granting wage increases for lower-paid employees in the first year of between R750 and R1,000 a month.
  • During the strike, Amcu’s leader in the sector, Dumisani Mahlomuza, claimed his union had majority representation at Delmas Coal, but this was firmly disputed by the Num as well as the Chamber of Mines.
  • In a media report, Amcu spokesman Manzini Zungu said the R1,000 per month increase was an Amcu achievement for which the Num.

PROTEST & STRIKE ACTION

Nehawu Strike puts water supply at Vhembe Limpopo district municipality at risk

  • The strike by Vhembe district municipal workers has left the area without water, amid mounting concerns nationwide about a looming drought.
  • More than 400 employees, including water specialists responsible for supplying water to residents, downed tools, leaving dams and reservoirs unattended since Wednesday.
  • Residents have not had water supply since the action started.
  • The workers are protesting against what they call the municipality’s failure to pay them subsidies that were a condition attached when they were technically transferred from the Department of Water Affairs to the municipality in 2005.
  • National Education Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) Limpopo chairman Calvin Tshamano said:  “The patience of our members has been overstretched by 10 years.  We want our workers to be paid the amount that they are still being owed before they can return to work, but they just keep on making empty promises.”
  • Vhembe spokesman Matodzi Ralushai said they had a meeting with the workers’ representatives on Friday.  He indicated that reports showed that only 142 workers are still owed money.

NTM claims purging of striking members at Swissport

  • National Transport Movement (NTM) members at the ground-handling company Swissport claim they are being “purged” for participating in a protected strike at OR International Airport.
  • They allege that this is despite a labour court judgment declaring the strike on 23 September protected.
  • The union reported that the company would be taking disciplinary action against its members which includes eight of the union’s shop stewards and one office bearer.
  • The employees will have to answer a case regarding unauthorised conduct at a national key point.
  • Swissport indicated that although union members had a right to strike, their conduct during the protest warranted disciplinary action.

RETRENCHMENT

South32’s Samancor to retrench

  • Media reports, as well as reports from unions, indicate that the planned restructuring process at Samancor Manganese’s Metalloys plant in Meyerton will affect 500 employees in various sections of the company.
  • The manganese producer apparently made the announcement in a Section 189 (i.e. retrenchment) notice and would soon begin a consultation process with unions.
  • In the notice, the company cited deteriorating market conditions and the resultant operational loss as reasons for the restructuring process.

Hout Bay fishmeal factory jobs saved

  • Workers at the Hout Bay fishmeal factory are to keep their jobs after the Oceana Group announced that the factory would remain operational.
  • This means that 98 jobs have been saved.
  • The announcement to keep the factory open came after Oceana concluded a lengthy Section 189 (i.e. retrenchment) consultation with workers and their representatives.
  • Accordingly, the factory would remain in full operation, with staff keeping their jobs and receiving wages “in line with their historic rates for days which they have worked during production,” said Oceana CEO Francois Kuttel, who added that production days would increase from 60 to 120 to maximise turnover.
  • Oceana first mooted the possibility of the factory closing down in August, citing a series of complaints about foul odours emanating from the premises during certain weather conditions, which were “associated with fishmeal and fish oil production,” as one of the main reasons.
  • In September the Hout Bay Civic Association handed the group a petition with 1,200 signatures protesting against the closure as it would have a negative effect on jobs in the community, and on the investments the group had made in the community.

Lonmin labour reductions

  • Platinum producer Lonmin this past week reported employee cuts, shrinking capital expenditure, lower unit costs and the highest refined platinum production in eight years.
  • In announcing the production results for the three and twelve months to 30 September, Lonmin reported an exit of 2,978 workers, 1,978 of them employees and 1,000 of them contractors, and a workforce count down from 38,292 last year to 35,669 as of 30 September – 26,968 of them permanent employees and 8,701 contractors.

UNION POLITICS

Satawu union leader flees union meeting

  • A top official of the SA Transport and Allied Workers’ Union (Satawu) had to use a back door to flee as about 200 furious members burst into the union’s special meeting in Durban on Friday.
  • The troubled transport union is an affiliate of labour federation Cosatu.
  • Satawu deputy general secretary Nicholus Maziya escaped from the union’s provincial head office when members disrupted a meeting held to replace provincial secretary Joseph Dube.  The union’s leadership put the office under administration after the suspension of Dube, who according to Maziya was mobilising Satawu members to join metalworkers’ union Numsa.
  • Satawu is being plagued by infighting in the run-up to its elective congress next year.  Maziya and the union’s general secretary Zenzo Mahlangu are in a bitter fight with Dube and his supporters, who allege that the union leadership has mismanaged funds.

Cosatu, Fedusa and Nactu

  • With union membership having stagnated or dropped in some sectors, labour federation Cosatu aims to woo two rival federations in an effort to bolster its position in the labour market.
  • This is indicated in the draft organisational report to be discussed at Cosatu’s national congress later this month.
  • The Federation of Unions of SA (Fedusa), which has mainly white collar members, and the National Council of Trade Unions (Nactu), which styles itself as left of the ANC and Cosatu, are the two federations Cosatu will talk to.
  • Nactu president Joseph Maqhekeni already indicated that his federation had long wanted to pursue the goal of a single federation, but acknowledged that political alliances prevented this from happening.
  • Fedusa general secretary Dennis George echoed this, saying that the identity of each federation had to be retained and that unions and federations should steer clear of politics.
  • But Cosatu faces tough competition from the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa), which it expelled.
  • Numsa held a conference this weekend during which it was expected to finalise plans to form a new federation, among other issues. The outcomes are due to be announced Monday November 9.
  • Numsa and other independent unions last week held a meeting on plans for a workers’ summit.  The meeting was also attended by Nactu (to which Amcu is affiliated).

New public service union targeting high membership by end of year

  • The South African Public Service Union (Sapsu) which was registered last week, is gunning for 100,000 members by the end of this year, interim president Thobile Ntola said last Thursday.
  • Ntola was a former president of the SA Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) until he was recently expelled.
  • According to Ntola, thousands of workers have been waiting for the new union’s registration before leaving their current unions and, now that the registration process has been completed, Sapsu was encouraging workers to ditch their respective unions.
  • Ntola described Sapsu as militant, non-aligned and independent and said it would target workers who were not part of unions.
  • About 72% of public service workers do not belong to unions.
  • Interestingly, however, Cosatu’s largest unions are now public sector unions (since the expulsion of Numsa), hence Sapsu could pose a significant threat should they be succesful in their aims.

The union’s first deputy general secretary, Paul Mbhele, another former leader of Sadtu who was expelled in 2013, said Sapsu would be ready to hold a national congress in June next year.  That would be preceded by regional and provincial congresses around the country.

GENERAL

AngloGold ordered to reinstate 579 unfairly dismissed Amcu members

  • David McKay analysed a Labour Court decision this past week which found in favour of reinstating 579 miners at AngloGold Ashanti’s (AGA’s) Moab Khotsong (Vaal Reefs) operation.
  • The miners, who are members of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu), were unfairly dismissed by the gold producer in 2013 following a dispute over Saturday pay, the Labour Court’s Justice Lagrange found.
  • According to Amcu, AGA must reinstate the workers within a period of two weeks from the judgement and they should be paid back 12 months wages.
  • AGA is currently considering their options.

Sandu rejects attempts to dismiss soldiers repatriated from DRC

  • The SA National Defence Union (Sandu) reports that several soldiers, recently repatriated from deployment duties in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), were given until 5 November 2015 to provide reasons why they should not be dismissed.
  • The notices issued by the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) to the soldiers allege that the soldiers breached a curfew and were absent from their base without leave.
  • The union has rejected this method of addressing the issue with the implicated soldiers as it says is in disregard of the military legislation dealing with matters of military discipline and of the country’s constitution.  It says that SANDF members, who are alleged to have committed disciplinary breaches, are legally entitled to a fair trial by a military court and the SANDF is also obliged to prosecute any disciplinary breach for which it has prima facie evidence.
  • To date, Sandu has received instruction from 15 soldiers to defend their rights in this matter.
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