DISPUTES, INDUSTRIAL ACTION AND DEMONSTRATIONS
Provident fund reforms
- Labour federation Cosatu as well as Numsa this week called on its members and workers in general to join in their separate efforts to “crush” new retirement fund amendments. Cosatu advised that it was finalising a ‘Section 77’ Nedlac application which will allow it to go on a full blown strike over the matter.
- In addition Cosatu has received backing from the Black Business Council (BBC) over its demand that impending retirement savings reforms be scrapped for now and discussions reopened. Mohale Ralebitso, BBC CEO, told reporters that the council agreed that talks needed to be reopened.
- The BBC and Cosatu are both concerned about workers leaving their jobs in droves to cash in their retirement savings in fear that the new reforms would lead to their money being nationalised.
- As part of efforts to force workers to save for their retirement and not withdraw savings for other reasons, the legislation will place a limit on how much may be withdrawn when a worker resigns or is retrenched. However, Cosatu and other unions are arguing that this would force employees into poverty since they would not be able to use the normal lump-sum received from a provident fund to establish subsistence farming and other enterprises in rural/tribal areas – they will be forced to live on a meagre pension in towns where they can ill afford to survive with the size of the pensions.
- National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) general secretary Irvin Jim flew to East London to support the workers, who were prevented from going back to work on Monday. He issued the normal rhetoric and undertook to negotiate on behalf of the workers for their return.
De Beers mine disposals
- The sale of all the assets of Kimberley Mines to Ekapa Minerals is through, despite union opposition to the transaction.
- De Beers Consolidated Mines (DBCM) indicated on Thursday that its disposal of Kimberley Mines tailings and the mineral resource assets had been consummated.
- Earlier this month, National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) members took to the streets of Kimberley to protest the sale to the consortium made up of local Kimberley surface miner Ekapa Mining and the London-listed Petra Diamonds.
- Being sold as a going concern means that the provisions of Section 197 of the Labour Relations Act will apply, stopping the new owners from making employment conditions less favourable, and DBCM has reportedly held several meetings with NUM to allay fears that the sale would result in job losses.
Kumba’s sensitising of unions
- Kumba Iron Ore has told the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) it will issue lay-off notices this year at its Sishen mine if low prices for its product persist.
- NUM general secretary David Sipunzi said: “They have been trying to sensitise us to this possibility. If the price remains like this for a few months they will have no choice but to issue a Section 189 (retrenchment notice).”
- Kumba has previously said it plans to reconfigure its Sishen mine. Sipunzi also said he expected to see more lay-off notices this year from other mining sectors, but the union wanted to work with companies to find ways to minimise job cuts.
Labour Court dismisses Popcru’s application to halt SAPS restructuring
- The Labour Court dismissed the Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union’s (Popcru’s) urgent application to have a SA Police Service (SAPS) restructuring process put on hold.
- Popcru claimed the process was illegal as acting National Police Commissioner, Kgomotso Phahlane, never engaged with stakeholders before beginning the process.
- After a lengthy argument, Popcru’s application was dismissed on the basis that it was not urgent. A decision was taken for the two parties to meet at the Bargaining Council next month to discuss a way forward.
Missing records in CCMA arbitration cases
- Two recent Constitutional Court (ConCourt) judgments have shone the spotlight on the persistent problem of labour courts being asked to review arbitration proceedings only to find that records have gone missing.
- In one judgment last month, the ConCourt Court noted that incomplete, patched-up records caused by faulty mechanical equipment or lost tape recordings at the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) were not uncommon.
- In another case, the court said it was improper for the Labour Court to dismiss an application for the review of an arbitration award in the absence of a proper record and it ordered the reinstatement of the fired employee.
- Judge Raymond Zondo suggested that costs orders against the CCMA and bargaining councils for failing to keep complete records might have to be seriously considered.
COLLECTIVE BARGAINING & DISPUTE RESOLUTION
Grievance resolution in the SANDF
- SA’s soldiers are seemingly between a rock and a hard place in that the mechanism in place to attend to their grievances lacks executive teeth and they are excluded from the bargaining council enjoyed by public servants.
- A permanent SA National Defence Force (SANDF) Service Commission has been established as an advisory body to the minister of defence on military service conditions.
- But, according to Pikkie Greeff, national secretary of the SA National Defence Union (Sandu), it is “dysfunctional”.
- However, Bantu Holomisa, the deputy chairman of the service commission and leader of the United Democratic Movement, said Sandu needed to understand that the commission was an advisory body and did not have executive powers. Holomisa commented: “If Sandu wants to do more, then it must direct its energy towards the minister and the Department of Defence to demand progress in granting additional powers to the commission.”
- Yet, according to the military ombud, Themba Matanzima, the mechanisms in place to deal with soldiers’ complaints are effective.
HEALTH AND SAFETY
Thakgoga Projects and asbestos rehab
- Thakgoga Projects, a company contracted to rehabilitate asbestos dumps at Prieska in the Northern Cape, has allegedly failed to provide adequate protective gear to its employees.
- Female workers who launder overalls have accused the contracted company of failing to provide them with adequate protective gear.
- An asbestos organisation, Concerned People Against Asbestos, say this is concerning because it puts the workers at risk of contracting asbestos-related diseases. Chairperson Obed Matlho elaborated: “They don’t have the right clothes. Those who do laundry are supposed to wear gloves…on top of their overalls there should be that plastic because if the dust comes out of that overall then it should end up on top of that plastic.”
- Thakgoga Projects Manager, Tumelo Modipane, denied the claims, saying that all workers have protective gear. Rehabilitation of the Buisvleis asbestos mine dumping site was started last year by Thakgoga. The dumping site was formally an asbestos mine which was closed in 1979.
Numsa’s workers’ party
- Irvin Jim, general secretary of the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa), says the formation of a new workers’ party is still on course.
- He said at a media briefing that the union’s objective was to build “a mass based, democratically controlled, Marxist-Leninist workers’ party which will destroy the whole capitalist system and replace it with a socialist society in which the country’s wealth is owned, controlled and managed democratically by the majority of the people”.
- But with local government elections only months away, Jim could still not say when the workers’ party would be formed.