DISPUTES, INDUSTRIAL ACTION & DEMONSTRATIONS

Pikitup strike

  • The illegal Pikitup strike is continuing amidst shots being fired at trucks and the SA Municipal Workers’ Union (Samwu) distancing themselves from violence and damage to property.
  • The Labour Court also demanded answers from the union about why the union should not be held in contempt of court for ignoring Labour Court orders in a series of unprotected strikes since last November.
  • Pikitup has also not yet implemented its threat to dismiss striking employees.

Bojanala bus strike (Rustenburg)

  • Drivers of Bojanala Bus Services in Rustenburg, North West, have commenced strike action demanding better wages and fair labour practices, among other things.
  • Drivers were demanding a pay hike from the current R6,000 per month to R10,000 per month.
  • Other issues included allegations that white people were getting higher salaries than blacks, whites were treated better than blacks, unilateral changes to terms and condition of employment and a failure to advertise vacancies internally.

eThekwine staff grading

  • Durban’s mayor James Nxumalo announced that a special task team would be set up to speed up the eThekwini Metro Municipality’s staff regrading process.
  • This followed the storming of the municipality’s executive committee (Exco) at the Durban city hall by municipal guards demanding that they be regraded.
  • It was the second time that the guards, whose duties include protecting Nxumalo, had stormed an Exco meeting to demand that their grievances be attended to.

Eskom strike at Mankweng (Limpopo)

  • Eskom employees at Mankweng station in Limpopo commenced unprotected strike action, saying they were being harassed by their employer after the company started investigating employees following the arrests of three workers and two contractors for allegedly assisting residents to connect electricity illegally.
  • Eskom provincial spokesman Dikgabane Rampedi on Monday said the company was not worried about the strike.  He commented:  “We cannot allow lawlessness to prevail in the company.  If employees are facing criminal charges for defrauding their employer, we must allow the law to take its course.”
  • Rampedi also indicated that Eskom had since suspended the three arrested employees, pending the finalisation of the criminal case against them.
  • At the time of the arrests, the utility was reportedly losing R500,000 a month to the scam.  The total amount of money lost has been estimated at R5.5-million.

UNTU planning rail strike on 4 April

  • The United National Transport Union (UNTU) announced that it has notified the Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa) that it intends to commence a strike at midnight on 4 April 2016.
  • Apparently the CCMA has granted UNTU and the SA Transport and Allied Workers’ Union (Satawu) a certificate of non-resolution of a dispute (so-called permission to strike).
  • According to general secretary SA Harris, the strike will be “a protest against a Government Employer that won’t govern—a Government Employer that has no interest in its own employees, or in working people.”
  • The union also alleges 15 broken agreements as further reasons for its threat to strike.
  • According to UNTU, a “recalcitrant” Prasa did not even bother to turn up to the CCMA’s conciliatory hearing on 14 March 2016, leaving the union with no option but to reluctantly strike.

JOB MARKET: JOB CREATION & RETRENCHMENTS

Employment figures from Statssa

  • Employment in the formal non-agricultural sector of the SA economy edged up marginally during 2015, with increases recorded over the past three quarters, Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) revealed on Wednesday.
  • The latest Quarterly Employment Statistics (QES) survey showed the number of employees increased by 43,000, or 0.5%, to 8.99-million in the fourth quarter of 2015.
  • This represented an increase of 6,000 year-on-year, or a rise of 0.1% in 2015, compared with the year to December 2014.
  • Mining jobs continued to decline, showing a year-on-year decrease of 5.9%, or 29,000 employees, to 462,000 by December 2015.
  • The construction and transport industries also recorded decreases.
  • However, the trade, finance and other business services and community and social services industries registered quarterly gains of 2.3%, 0.8% and 0.5% respectively to 1.9-million, two-million and 2.5-million.

Telkom’s voluntary retrenchment offer

  • As part of its restructuring consultation process, Telkom offered voluntary retrenchments to a large portion of its workforce.
  • It appears that unions have blocked all of Telkom’s attempts to have meaningful consultation and the company therefore is now making available voluntary packages to non-bargaining unit employees.

WAGE NEGOTIATIONS

Unintended consequences of unions’ rejection in 2015 of gold sustainability compact

  • Jan De Lange (Beeld newspaper) writes that in the 2015 gold wage talks, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) summarily rejected the producers’ offer of an Economic and Social Sustainability Compact.
  • The rejected proposal included a profit sharing scheme which is now costing employees dearly.
  • Last year when the offer was made, the average gold price was about R470,000 per kg.  But, the average so far in 2016 has been R620,000 per kg, meaning that the profits of producers in the first quarter will more than double.  Expectations are that profits will rise more sharply in the rest of the year.
  • In the case of Sibanye Gold, the NUM, although not the majority union Amcu, eventually accepted wage increases of 11.5% for the lowest grade of underground worker.  But if the profit scheme was now in operation, each worker would be receiving an extra R1,300 per quarter, implying an increase of 16%.
  • Yet, Sibanye did in fact quietly put a scheme known as the Kipa profit plan in place in July last year and, in a surprising development, CEO Neal Froneman recently indicated the company was back in talks with unions over the compact.
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