DISPUTES, INDUSTRIAL ACTION & DEMONSTRATIONS

Amcu strike at Kroondal

  • Through further discussions between Sibanye management and Amcu, and supported by a court order, a one-day strike by Amcu was called-off by the union.
  • The strike was unprotected and was called by Amcu after they were not satisfied with progress made in discussions regarding transport arrangements.
  • Amcu members must report back for work as from the nightshift on Sunday evening.

Cape Town’s MyCiti

  • Bus drivers in Cape Town embarked on an unprotected strike on Thursday.
  • The City of Cape Town advised that various routes were severely disrupted.
  • It is unclear what the reason for the action is.

Dismissed Satawu members at Metrorail (Cape Town)

  • Metrorail Western Cape says more than 130 workers affiliated with the South African Transport and Allied Workers’ Union (Satawu) who have been dismissed after a wildcat strike and incidents of arson will not be allowed to return to work.

Lectures resumed at VUT

  • Lectures restarted at the Vaal University of Technology (VUT) after violent student protests saw lecture venues and administration buildings torched.
  • The institution suspended academic activities three weeks ago after rioting students allegedly torched buildings and damaged property in week-long standoff with the university’s management.
  • They were demanding the removal of the campus security company and the lifting of suspensions of students that faced criminal charges, among other grievances.
  • Deputy Vice Chancellor Segopane Seroka said a meeting was held with all parties during last weekend and students committed themselves to full compliance with the conditions as contained in a high court interdict.

SANDF recalls suspended soldiers

  • SA National Defence Force (SANDF) chief General Solly Shoke has recalled the 507 soldiers still on special leave after marching on the Union Buildings in 2009 over pay issues.
  • However, he would not clarify if the soldiers would face disciplinary action upon their return.
  • The “illegal” march degenerated with police using rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse the soldiers.
  • Shoke said:  “The matter has been dragging through the courts for quite some time and we are trying now to bring the matter to a conclusion.”
  • SA National Defence Union (Sandu) general secretary Pikkie Greeff said the recall to active duty was a massive victory for the soldiers, 80 months and R560 million later.  He called for Shoke’s resignation.

Aspen Pharmacare

  • Aspen Pharmacare, the country’s largest generic pharmaceutical manufacturer, has been granted an interdict by the Labour Court against striking workers at its Port Elizabeth operation.
  • The workers started picketing outside the company premises on Thursday the week before last demanding better working conditions.
  • According to Thulani Radasi, an organiser for the South African Chemical Workers’ Union (Sacwu), amongst the workers’ complaints are that shop stewards are being victimised and are accordingly afraid to do union work, there is outstanding money owed to workers in a share scheme project and people who have worked for the company for more than ten years are still contract workers.

PE municipal manager held hostage

  • Disgruntled workers, who were demanding that their grievances be addressed, had kept Port Elizabeth municipal manager Ted Pillay behind the locked gates for a three hour period last week.
  • The workers, all of them members of the SA Municipal Workers’ Union (Samwu), had vowed to hold Pillay until he committed to dealing with several outstanding issues.
  • After hours of intense negotiations, police finally persuaded them to unlock the gates and let Pillay and a few other municipal workers who were still inside go.
  • The workers’ list of 22 grievances includes policies being approved without being reviewed by the labour forums.

JOB MARKET: JOB CREATION & RETRENCHMENTS

Ghost towns developing as mines close

  • The mass job losses in the steel and mining industries have had a devastating ripple effect on mining towns, which depended largely on miners for consumer spend.
  • One such town is Thabazimbi in Limpopo, home to the more than 80-year-old Kumba Iron Ore Mine that shut down at the end of last year.
  • Affecting 1,160 workers and many others contracted to companies in business with the mine, the closure has stripped the town of nearly all economic activity.
  • The retrenched miners have packed their belongings, leaving empty streets and houses.
  • The town is now occupied by an uneasy silence as those who remain contemplate the way forward.

Eastern Cape Department of Education advertises 1,023 school admin assistant posts

  • After a 20-year moratorium on the appointment of nonteaching staff at schools, the Eastern Cape Department of Education has advertised 1,023 administrative assistant posts for schools in its 23 districts.
  • Provincial education spokesman Malibongwe Mtima said the department had decided it would advertise these posts to ensure that schools could focus on providing good-quality education.
  • Since 1996, schools have not received any additional funding from the Department of Education to appoint non-teaching staff and in many cases have had to pay caretakers, cleaners and secretaries from their own funds.

Netcare restructuring plans

  • The Netcare Hospital Group informed Solidarity of a plan to restructure the credit control divisions of six of its hospitals in Gauteng, owing to the economic climate.
  • The trade union said the company had indicated that the planned centralisation was expected to be implemented in several phases and be finalised by June next year.
  • The process was still in the early stages and that it was not clear how many employees would be affected.

LEGAL

Health and safety at construction sites

  • Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant this week said that about 500,000 workers were risking their lives on construction sites that did not comply with health and safety laws.
  • As much as 40% of the industry did not comply with these laws, which translated to about 5,000 construction sites across the country.
  • The risks came from issues like lack of compliance with health and safety regulations to “deliberate ignorance”.
  • However, the situation had become slightly better since construction regulations were introduced in 2014.
  • Oliphant was speaking at the presentation of the findings of the investigation into Tongaat Mall collapse of 19 November 2013.  Inspectors found several violations of the Occupational Health and Safety Act and construction regulations.  The findings will be given to the National Prosecuting Authority for a decision on whether to charge anyone with a crime.

Postponement of annuitisation of provident funds

  • President Zuma has signed the Revenue Laws Amendment Act into law to postpone annuitisation for provident funds to 1 March 2018.
  • The new act affects provident fund members only, by delaying until March 1 2018 both the requirement for them to purchase an annuity at retirement and the ability to transfer accumulated retirement savings between all retirement funds tax-free.
  • All other aspects of the retirement reform amendments that were contained in the Taxation Laws Amendment Acts proceeded as scheduled on March 1 2016.

Abattoir workers in overtime dispute

  • Abattoir workers who were dismissed after allegedly refusing to work 18-hour shifts to process 850 carcasses a day took their case to the Labour Appeal Court (LAC).
  • Robertson Abattoir locked out and dismissed them in November 2010‚ saying they were let go for “absenteeism” and “insubordination” after disciplinary proceedings.
  • The workers‚ members of the Commercial Stevedoring Agricultural and Allied Workers’ Union‚ want the LAC in Cape Town to set aside a decision by the Labour Court to dismiss their application for unfair dismissal.
  • The Socio-Economic Rights Institute of SA (Seri)‚ a non-profit human rights organisation‚ is representing the workers in the case.
  • The workers had argued in the Labour Court that their dismissal was unfair because they refused to work long hours in “oppressive working conditions” for R300 to R400 a week.

Sadtu jobs-for-cash

  • A week after the Department of Basic Education’s (DBE’s) jobs-for-cash report was released, the SA Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) has demanded that its name be cleared of the selling of teacher posts.
  • The union maintains that, if anything, the report has vindicated it.
  • Sadtu deputy general secretary Nkosana Dolopi said:  “Sadtu as a union has not been found to be selling posts.  We are not selling posts.  There is no amount of money in any account of Sadtu.”
  • The union demanded that the DBE should publicly state that the union was not involved in the selling of posts.
  • DBE spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga said there had never been suggestions from the department that Sadtu was involved in the scandal, but that there had been cases where individuals had sold posts.

REMUNERATION AND COLLECTIVE BARGAINING

Labour threatens mass action over minimum wages

  • Unions are seemingly gearing up for mass action after national minimum wage talks at the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) effectively collapsed.
  • The discussions, which started about 18 months’ ago have deadlocked, with labour complaining that business is too reluctant and the government is not doing its bit to steer the process.
  • Neil Coleman, the labour spokesman for the wage inequality task team at Nedlac, said on Wednesday that union federations, including Cosatu, were discussing taking to the streets to re-ignite the talks and force business to come to the party.
  • Coleman accused business of being reluctant to commit to a figure for a national minimum wage, forcing the deadlock.

Car makers wage negotiations

  • Car manufacturers have rejected the National Union of Metalworkers of SA’s (Numsa’s) demand for a one-year wage agreement, forcing the union to go back to the drawing board.
  • Employers, including seven global car manufacturers, told the union from the onset they would not accept a deal that would mean another round of wage talks in 2017.
  • This was before responding to Numsa’s demands, which included a 20% wage hike.
  • A three-year deal in the sector expires in September.
  • The union’s members decided in April to push for a one-year agreement partly because of economic conditions.

UNION POLITICS

Solidarity and new workers’ federation

  • Solidarity does not want a part in moves to form a new workers’ federation, the trade union has indicated.
  • The move for the new federation is being led by the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) and former Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi.
  • With talks still under way on the policies and political direction of the new federation, which is due to launch next year, Solidarity has indicated while collaboration is an option, it would prefer to remain outside the fold.
  • Solidarity had initially shown interest and accepted an invitation earlier this month to the Workers’ Summit, which was organised by Numsa and other new federation drivers.
  • But there are ideological differences between the union and others keen on the new federation.  “We want to remain neutral, but we are willing to co-operate in campaigns when we have a common interest,” explained Solidarity’s general secretary Gideon Du Plessis.

Cosatu criticises Zwane, Motshekga and Gordhan

  • The Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) accused three cabinet ministers (Zwane, Motshekga and Gordhan) of taking aim at the labour federation in what it termed a “troubling pattern”.
  • Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga and Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan each targeted Cosatu publicly, said general secretary Bheki Ntshalintshali.
  • He accused Zwane of lying about Cosatu’s affiliate the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), and noted that he has since refused to meet with the union’s leaders.
  • He then accused Motshekga of joining opposition parties against the SA Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) on the so-called jobs-for-cash scandal that has hit the basic education sector.
  • Regarding Gordhan, Ntshalintshali accused him of “reviewing and misrepresenting” the policies of the ANC.  He claimed the Treasury and the SA Reserve Bank were the “biggest obstacles” to government’s economic programme and both needed to be brought into line.
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