DISPUTES, INDUSTRIAL ACTION & DEMONSTRATIONS

Cosatu and provident fund reform

  • Cosatu has backed down on its national strike planned for 2 March 2016 in protest against changes to the law relating to provident fund withdrawals.
  • This comes after the government decided to delay parts of the retirement reform law by two years, to reopen the consultation process with labour and table proposals for a comprehensive social security plan.

Oakbay’s Brakfontein colliery

  • The management of Brakfontein colliery outside Delmas on Tuesday laid down razor wire around their offices to keep workers out.
  • The mine belong to the Gupta family’s Oakbay and Tegeta Exploration and Resources.
  • The mine obtained an urgent interdict in the Labour Court against the mineworkers, who brought operations to a standstill during last weekend and chased the mine manager away.
  • The workers handed over a list of 17 demands which includes that Roux and the whole management should resign and that outstanding wages owed to them should be paid.
  • An independent panel is being set up to investigate and find solutions.

JRA workers burn tyres, block traffic

  • Johannesburg Roads Agency (JRA) workers protested in the Johannesburg CBD streets for a second day on Wednesday, burning tyres and blocking traffic.
  • Employees represented by the SA Municipal Workers’ Union (Samwu) said they were promised a pay increase of 7% last year, but were still waiting.  Samwu leaders said the outcome of an audit, which began last year and which was aimed at determining whether employees were underpaid or not, has still not been formally communicated.

JOB MARKET: JOB CREATION & RETRENCHMENTS

Unemployment and joblessness

  • SA’s unemployment rate fell to 24.5% of the labour force in the fourth quarter of last year from 25.5% in the third quarter, official data showed on Thursday.
  • In its quarterly labour force survey, Statistics SA said this amounted to 5.2-million people without work in the fourth quarter compared with 5.4-million previously.
  • The expanded definition of unemployment, which includes people who have stopped looking for work, was at 33.8% in the fourth quarter from 34.4% previously.
  • Employment in the formal sector increased by 250,000 with growth in the finance and trade sectors, while the largest job losses were seen in the manufacturing and construction sectors.
  • Analysts said the modest decline in joblessness did not take away from the problem of stubbornly high unemployment

Telkom to shed 300 head office jobs

  • Telkom confirmed on Friday that it is to retrench 300 people at its Pretoria head office and In addition outsource in the region of 260 roles in a parallel process.
  • Unions have been issued with a notice of the retrenchments on Thursday.

SAA merger with SA Express

  • The SA Transport and Allied Workers’ Union (Satawu) has demanded a meeting with SAA and the Treasury to discuss the planned merging of the national airline with SA Express.
  • The union said it was worried that the merger, which was announced by Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan during his Budget speech on Wednesday, could result in job losses at SAA and it wanted to understand what the merger would mean for its members.

REMUNERATION AND WAGE NEGOTIATIONS

Salaries of elected officials increased by 4.4%

  • SA’s elected officials will receive salary increases of 4.4%, compared with consumer inflation of more than 6%, the Presidency announced on Wednesday.
  • This include political office bearers nationally and in the provinces for 2015/16.

Public sector union members earn 40% more than nonunion private sector equivalents

  • Public sector trade unions were able to secure earnings for their members at a rate 40% higher than non-unionised employees in the private sector with the same skills and other characteristics.
  • This is according to an economic analysis by the Development Policy Research Unit at the University of Cape Town.  The lead writer of the paper, Haroon Bhorat, said the analysis illustrated that the average civil servant had arguably come to represent SA’s labour elite, with a significant “wedge” between average public and private sector employees.
  • Due to their obvious success, public sector unions have become increasingly popular with workers.  The paper also shows the dramatic growth of jobs in the public sector which, according to Statistics SA’s Quarterly Labour Force Survey, added 500,000 jobs between 2008 and 2014.  In 2014, the Treasury placed a moratorium on new government employment.

Sibanye in discussions with unions re Social and Economic Compact

  • The record rand price of gold has prompted gold producer Sibanye Gold to exercise its bona fides by calling on its employees, unions and associations to return to the table.  This is not to reopen wage negotiations, but to enter into a dialogue on an innovative social and economic compact, involving job protection when margins are low and the exercise of greater wage latitude when margins recover.
  • The gold mining industry as a whole tabled the same concept during last year’s wage negotiations, where it was spurned by union leaders.
  • Sibanye Gold CEO Neal Froneman said at a results presentation on Thursday that anyone who had watched the rise of the rand price of gold in the last few months would see that the unions had not done their members any favours at all by not having engaged.

Government housing allowance scheme

  • Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba on said 87,000 government employees have already enrolled and received the new housing allowance backdated to 1 July 2015.
  • The Minister indicated that it was anticipated that by the end of March 2016, over 400,000 employees would have enrolled for the homeowners’ allowance.
  • The balance of employees would have an opportunity to enrol when the Government Employees Housing Scheme (GEHS) website is launched during March 2016.
  • The GEHS commenced on 27 May 2015 following the signing of the Public Service Coordinating Bargaining Council Resolution 7 of 2015

HEALTH AND SAFETY

30,000 Eastern Cape public servants on sick leave

  • The Eastern Cape provincial government has more than 30,000 public servants who are being paid monthly while sitting at home on prolonged sick leave.  Some of them have been away from work for more than six years.
  • Premier Phumulo Masualle on Wednesday instructed all provincial MECs to submit reports to him on the matter by 15 March.  He apparently also intends to establish a task team to investigate “irregular and suspiciously fraudulent” sick leave in the provincial government system.

Lily Mine

  • Drilling of a new shaft at Lily Mine in Mpumalanga recommenced on Tuesday after a 36-hour break following a mechanical failure.
  • The decision to drill a second shaft was made by Vantage Goldfields management, the Association of Mining and Construction Union (Amcu) and the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR).
  • This followed an initial and two subsequent cave-ins at the mine, which led to search and rescue operations to find three mine workers trapped in a container being suspended.

Implats stages safety revamp

  • Impala Platinum (Implats) is to stage a complete re-think of its safety standards and procedures after spending R1bn at improving them since the arrival of CEO, Terence Goodlace just over four years ago.
  • This follows a fire at the Lease Area 14 shaft in Rustenburg which resulted in the death of four employees and also cost the company 50,000 ounces in production this year.
  • A series of other incidents occurred at Rustenburg and Mimosa in the interim period under review and in the current half of the financial year.

LEGAL

ConCourt considers unions’ bargaining and strike rights at plants covered by sectoral agreements

  • The Transport and Allied Workers Union of SA (Tawusa) asked the Constitutional Court to interpret a sectoral collective bargaining agreement in a way that would still allow workers to bargain and strike over their salaries at plant level.
  • At issue is the application to workers of Unitrans Fuel and Chemical of a wage agreement reached at National Bargaining Council for the Road Freight Industry.  A strike at the company, which the Labour Court declared unprotected, over “wage parity” led to the dismissal of 94 employees, which the union is challenging.
  • A debate is said to be gaining momentum about whether the sectoral system is too rigid, and whether it still serves the best interests of all workers, especially in sectors where employees have differing levels of skill.
  • On Monday, the Free Market Foundation (FMF) went to the High Court in Pretoria to challenge the constitutionality of a section in the Labour Relations Act relating to the automatic extension of bargaining council agreements to minority non-parties.

Prasa paid suspended employees R37m

  • Over the past three years, the Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa) has forked out R37m to employees suspended on full pay pending disciplinary action.
  • Transport Minister Dipuo Peters revealed in Parliament that in the months between April 2012 and March 2015 there were between 44 and 120 Prasa employees suspended pending disciplinary action and that the suspensions were due to “several cases of misconduct that required intensive investigations”.
  • Prasa is considering contracting external resources to assist in chairing disciplinary hearings, and workshops are ongoing with trade unions to embrace a culture of discipline.

UNION POLITICS

NUM losing support

  • The membership of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) dropped to 206,000 in the last week of January, which is a level last seen in the 1990s.
  • NUM general secretary David Sipunzi blames the dramatic decline on job losses and a failure by companies to process membership forms.  NUM spokesman Livhuwani Mammburu also said the decline could also be attributed to an auditing of the membership, which was ongoing.
  • The NUM has had a difficult run in recent years, with the rise of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) that replaced it as the majority union in the platinum belt.
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