DISPUTES, INDUSTRIAL ACTION & DEMONSTRATIONS

Nehawu and Parliament

  • The National Education Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) rejected a press statement by Parliament implying that the union had withdrawn a CCMA case relating to bonus payments.
  • The union said this was “a malicious and deliberate distortion of facts to undermine the union and mislead the public.”
  • Parliament said in a statement the legislature and Nehawu had agreed to discuss all matters of mutual concern between the two parties internally.
  • With reference to the bonuses paid on 18 December in terms of an agreement which brought to an end weeks of industrial action, the union claims that the bonuses of “scores of 571 employees” were unilaterally ‎reduced by the management of Parliament and more than 200 employees did not receive bonuses.

Rejection by TUT workers of Nehawu-brokered insourcing agreement

  • The National Education Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) on Thursday afternoon said it had come to an agreement on “insourcing” with the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT), but the institution’s workers rejected the pact and insisted on protesting.
  • Nehawu’s Zola Saphetha said the insourcing agreement was a commitment from TUT management that workers would be absorbed from 1 July, while the programme would run until 2019 when the last batch of contracts would expire.
  • The workers would receive a minimum wage of R5,000 and their dependents would be recipients of study benefits.
  • But, before the meeting where Nehawu secured the agreement, the EFF Student Command at the Main Campus said the task team “does not have the mandate of the workers and some of the representatives especially from Nehawu are highly unpopular amongst workers demanding their insourcing”.
  • Meanwhile, #OutsourcingMustFall spokesman Austin Mofyoa said the workers have rejected the agreement.  “We are disappointed at Nehawu for not abiding by our demand of R10,000.  The decision is not in our interest but instead of Nehawu’s”.

Eskom’s vehicle drive-cameras

  • Two trade unions have joined forces to stop Eskom from continuing a process which started in 2008 to install drive-cameras in its company cars.
  • The installations are aimed at protecting the vehicles and to curb road accidents.
  • The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) complained that Eskom was using the cameras to monitor workers and to victimise them through disciplinary actions.
  • Eskom workers in Booysens embarked on a work-stoppage protest on Wednesday over the continuation of the installation of cameras in Eskom’s vehicles in Gauteng.
  • Eskom spokesperson Khulu Phasiwe indicated:  “We implemented this purely for safety reasons and to ensure that none of our workers come to work to be killed.”
  • More than 7,000 vehicles out of a 12,000 fleet countrywide have been fitted with drive-cameras by Eskom since the process began in 2008.

JOB MARKET: JOB CREATION & RETRENCHMENTS

Seasonal farmworker jobs in Western Cape

  • The prospect of job losses among seasonal farmworkers in the Western Cape is looming large due to the severe drought affecting the province.
  • Latest estimates are suggesting a 10% drop in agricultural production.
  • The main areas of concern are Witzenberg, Prince Albert and Oudtshoorn, the West Coast and Central Karoo districts.

32,000 mining jobs at affected by droop in commodity prices

  • Mineral resources minister Mosebenzi Zwane indicated this week that there had been further job losses since last year when around 23,000 miners were retrenched as companies grappled with a low-price environment and dwindling demand.  “The overall figure of job losses is 32,000.  But not everybody has lost their jobs.  We are engaging with stakeholders to mitigate the job losses through a number of initiatives including the re-skilling of workers, counselling and transferring workers from operations which are not doing well to others,” Zwane stated.
  • Total mining employment is about 450,000 people.
  • Zwane’s comments came amid Kumba Iron Ore’s announcement that it had begun talks with its staff about a restructuring that could result in losses of up to 4,000 jobs.

Lonmin delays 1,000 job cuts

  • Lonmin indicated that it would keep 1,000 contractors employed until at least September as it delayed plans to shut some shafts that had been earmarked for closure.
  • Progress on its strategy to reduce the number of employees and contractors by 6,000 was in line with expectations, the company said in a statement on Thursday.
  • About 5,000 people have left the company.
  • Lonmin’s plans to weather the price slump include shutting unprofitable shafts, which will reduce the company’s annual platinum output by about 100,000 ounces by 2017.
  • The short-term reduction in contractor headcount will be 1,000 less than previously reported after the producer agreed to keep two shafts operational until at least the end of the financial year.
  • Lonmin’s mines continue to operate unprofitably while it implements the turnaround plan.

Banking jobs may be at risk in 2016

  • SA’s biggest banks are expected to consider reducing staff numbers this year to control costs as rising interest rates, a slowing economy and weakening rand weigh on earnings, according to finance union Sasbo.
  • The union’s Eugene Ebersohn said in an e-mailed response to questions by Bloomberg that last year was a “fairly sedate year in terms of restructuring, but we expect 2016 to be different.
  • Bank employees face lower pay, redeployment or job losses in 2016, said Old Mutual’s Neelash Hansjee.  “Staff cost is the single largest cost item for the banks.  This would be one of the starting points for cost efficiencies,” she pointed out.
  • The country’s four largest banks employed more than 165,000 people by June.

LEGAL

Retrenched Edcon staff fail in ConCourt reinstatement bid

 

  • Thousands of workers retrenched by the Edcon group in 2013 and 2014 have had their hopes of reinstatement dashed by the Constitutional Court (ConCourt).
  • On Friday the court ruled that a failure to follow procedure did not invalidate their dismissals.
  • Edcon started restructuring in April 2013, but failed to wait for the prescribed period for consultations before retrenching 3,000 employees.
  • Last year 1,300 of the dismissed workers approached the Labour Court asking for reinstatement and back pay, but they failed.
  • The Labour Appeal Court then found that Edcon had failed to follow the dismissal procedures and principles set out in the Labour Relations Act, which effectively rendered the firm’s dismissal notices invalid.
  • The Constitutional Court on Friday said the Edcon dismissals might be procedurally unfair, but they were not “unlawful, invalid and of no force or effect”.

SAPS’s employment equity plan unconstitutional

  • Solidarity reports that the Johannesburg Labour Court ruled in its favour that the employment equity plan of the SA Police Service (SAPS) was unlawful.
  • The court ruled that the plan amounted to a quota system and therefore contravened the Employment Equity Act.
  • The plan was also ruled to be in violation of the equality clause in section 9(2) of the Constitution.

Deputy registrar of pension funds takes FSB to court

  • Senior Financial Services Board (FSB) employee, Rosemary Hunter, is taking the regulator, who is her employer, to court over alleged irregularities concerning the cancellation of the registration of thousands of retirement funds worth billions of rand.
  • It is feared the cancellations were irregular and may have deprived beneficiaries of benefits.  The FSB is expected to oppose Hunter’s application.
  • Hunter is a pension law expert who has worked as the FSB’s deputy registrar of pension funds since 2013.  Her contract expires at the end of July.
  • According to Hunter’s court papers, the cancellations project was initiated by the Registrar of Pension Funds to procure the cancellations of the registration of about 4,500 pension funds that did not have boards of trustees.
  • She wants the High Court in Pretoria to compel the FSB to investigate how cancellations were made.  Added to that, she wants the court to order the FSB to make available copies of some reports in relation to the pension funds cancellation project.

COLLECTIVE BARGAINING

DMR sets target for realignment of mineworker compensation legislation

  • Mineral Resources Deputy Minister Godfrey Oliphant indicated last Monday that the reformation of the Occupational Diseases in Mines and Works Act (ODMWA) and its alignment to the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act needed to be settled before year-end.
  • Speaking during an ‘Integration of Compensation Systems’ workshop, he noted that the issue, which included a significant backlog of current claims, had been dragging for many years.
  • Oliphant further stated that the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) had mobilised all role-players to agree that the reformation was “something worth tackling”.
  • Mining industry representatives, including from the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) and the Chamber of Mines (CoM), supported the renewed initiative.

Meanwhile, National Union of Metalworkers of SA health coordinator Puleng Mminele said the union was reluctant to commit itself to the process, noting that the agenda was too ambitious considering that the problem had developed over a 100 years of neglect by the State and industry.

Mine fatalities at all-time low

  • Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane indicated this week that in 2015 South Africa recorded its lowest-ever number of mine fatalities, namely 77, down from 84 the year before.
  • Gold mines reported 33 fatalities in 2015 – an improvement on the 44 fatalities the year before.
  • However, the number of fatalities in platinum mines increased from 16 in 2014 to 22 in 2015.
  • The coal sector recorded five fatalities last year as against nine in 2014.
  • Other mines reported 17 fatalities, which was a regression from the 15 fatalities recorded in 2014.
  • “The South African mining sector is now comparing favourably in terms of fatality rates when compared with other countries, such as the US and Canada,” Zwane noted at the briefing.
  • Regarding occupational health, Zwane indicated, that 3,116 injuries were reported in 2015 – a 15% year-on-year regression from the 2,700 injuries recorded the year before.  “The regression is largely as a result of the comparison period, which includes the platinum wage negotiation period in 2014,” he explained.

Zwane added that there was an improvement of 3% in the number of occupational diseases reported, which declined from 6,810 in 2014 to 6,577 in 2015.

UNION POLITICS

New Cosatu provincial secretary in North West

  • The secretary of the SA Transport and Allied Workers’ Union (Satawu) in North West, Job Dliso, has been appointed as the secretary of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) in the North West.
  • Dliso was appointed at the special provincial executive committee (PEC) meeting held in Stilfontein on 19 January 2016.  He replaces Solly Phetoe, who was elected as Deputy General Secretary of the federation at Cosatu’s national congress held in November 2015
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