DISPUTES, INDUSTRIAL ACTION & DEMONSTRATIONS

SA Broadcasting Corporation (SABC)

  • Journalists picketed in solidarity with SABC journalists suspended for standing up against a censorship policy that has been likened to apartheid-era tendencies. International pressure from global media groupings are also mounting against the SABC.
  • Special Assignment executive producer Busisiwe Ntuli, SAfm current affairs executive producer Krivani Pillay and senior investigative journalist Jacques Steenkamp were on Thursday charged with illegal conduct after they raised concerns about censorship in a letter to chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng.
  • Their sanction followed the suspension of another three editorial staff, namely economics editor Thandeka Gqubule, Radio Sonder Grense executive editor Foeta Krige and senior journalist Suna Venter, who were suspended after defying Motsoeneng’s orders not to cover a recent anti-censorship protest outside the SABC’s headquarters.
  • The journalists, including parliamentary reporter Lukhanyo Calata, who publicly rebuked Motsoeneng’s leadership, were expected to appear before the disciplinary hearing on Friday.

Durban bus drivers

  • Two busses were set alight in the suburb of Morningside in Durban on Friday in what seems to be related to a bus driver strike demanding that contracted drivers being hired on a permanent basis.

Parliament and Nehawu

  • Parliament’s disgruntled National Education Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) members went back to work on Thursday.
  • The two parties will meet again on Tuesday to try and resolve issues left over from last year’s protracted strike.
  • The dispute centres on deductions from staff salaries, following an unprotected strike in late 2015.
  • Some Nehawu-affiliated employees participated in a work stoppage last Wednesday over the precautionary suspension of its branch chairperson Sthembiso Tembe and another member, Michael Sithole.  Three other union members face internal charges of insubordination or gross misconduct.
  • This was after two meetings last week with the Secretary to Parliament with the aim of resolving the problems between the parties did not resolve issues.
  • Around 1,000 of Parliament’s staff of researchers, committee assistants, translators and security officials are Nehawu members.
  • No other union is known to be active at Parliament.
  • The dispute centres on deductions from staff salaries, following an unprotected strike in late 2015.

JOB MARKET: JOB CREATION & RETRENCHMENTS

EFF and Tshwane Metro

  • Two Tshwane deputy city managers participated in a heated meeting with members of the EFF and the #OutsourcingMustFall movement last Thursday after scores of contracted workers blocked off the city’s Isivuno head office, demanding permanent jobs.
  • The workers alleged that Tshwane mayoral spokesman Blessing Manale had repeatedly lied to them and insisted that he must be called to the heated meeting.
  • However deputy manager Ndivho Lukhwareni turned down the request and the parties later agreed to reconvene in two weeks.

LEGAL

Political party interference in protected strike action

  • Law firm Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr (CDH) has pointed out that, when a political party intervenes in a strike‚ any concerns which the employer has in that regard must be raised with the political party and not with the trade union(s) or employees.
  • This was noted in relation to a Labour Court decision given in November last year in the case of National Union of Food Beverage Wine Spirits and Allied Workers and others v Universal Product Network (UPN).
  • In that instance‚ the union had embarked on a protected strike in October 2015.  The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) became involved in the strike and visited the UPN premises demanding to negotiate with management.
  • But, the union denied it was in alliance or in partnership with the EFF‚ and said it had no control over the EFF and its programmes.
  • In its judgment, the Court said the evidence presented by the employer did not disclose that any “political” demands had been made by the union.
  • According to CDH, the ruling showed that “the mere fact that a strike has taken on a political flavour cannot transform a protected strike into an unprotected one.”

Amcu to sue Northam Platinum, NUM and SAPS

  • The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) will be suing Northam Platinum, the SAPS and the NUM for the murder of a member, union president Joseph Mathunjwa said at Thembinkosi Mhlabeni’s memorial service.
  • Mhlabeni was stabbed to death on 6 June when Amcu members clashed with NUM.
  • The clash was triggered by the death of NUM member Mthetheleli Somaxhama, who was gunned down on 5 June in Northam.
  • Mathunjwa told union members that the NUM and Northam Platinum mine management should take the responsibility for Mhlabeni’s death.
  • He also indicated that Amcu members would not return to work at Northam’s Zondereinde mine until the mine assured the union that workers would be safe.

Gold miners’ silicosis case could open floodgate for litigation in other sectors (Mining News)

  • The certification of class action status to current and former gold mineworkers suffering from silicosis and tuberculosis against over 30 historic and current gold mining companies in South Africa potentially opens the door for similar litigation across several sectors, including coal and manganese.
  • Law firm Fasken Martineau partner Paul Fouché explained that there is common ground between the sectors in so far as miners have contracted lung diseases by inhaling the dust at mining operations.
  • He points out that cases of pneumoconiosis, commonly known as black lung disease, caused by the inhalation of coal dust, have been well documented over a number of years, particularly in the northern hemisphere.
  • Further, a peer-reviewed research paper by Dr David Stanton, which was published in the occupational health journal Occupational Health Southern Africa last year, states that the possibility of class action litigation against South African coal mining companies is being investigated, and there could be future class action litigation against manganese mining companies.
  • Fouché points out that the pursuit of class action certification largely depends on the number of plaintiffs forming part of the class, as well as the ability to prove the common suffering shared among the plaintiffs.
  • Meanwhile, he notes that, while the silicosis case is unprecedented in terms of scale and complexity, it would not have been possible if the Constitutional Court had not ruled in favour of plaintiff and former AngloGold Ashanti miner Thembekile Mankayi against his former employer for contracting silicosis while working at the company’s Vaal Reefs mine.
  • In the Mankayi case, the Constitutional Court held that mineworkers who have contracted a compensable disease, such as silicosis, under the Occupational Diseases in Mines and Works Act (ODMWA), are not precluded from claiming damages from their employer, as is the case for employees who have contracted occupational diseases which are compensable under the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act (Coida).
  • That matter was first heard in the Witwatersrand High Court, which ruled in favour of AngloGold Ashanti in June 2009.
  • In March 2010, the matter was taken to the Supreme Court of Appeal, in Bloemfontein, which upheld the lower court’s judgment.
  • The case was subsequently taken to the Constitutional Court, which overturned both decisions, ruling in favour of Mankayi in March 2011.
  • Mankayi had died of lung disease in February 2011.
  • “This case made it possible for workers suffering from lung disease to sue their employers for civil damages,” Fasken Martineau senior associate Neil Searle points out. He adds that, before the Mankayi case, employees who were entitled to compensation under the ODMWA were effectively in the same legal position as employees entitled to compensation under Coida in that both were prohibited from claiming additional damages from their employer through a civil lawsuit. “The Mankayi case . . . changed the preclusion under Section 35 of Coida such that it no longer applies to employees with claims for compensation arising from occupational diseases contracted in mines under the ODMWA. This, in turn, opened the door for the silicosis class action litigation,” Fouché explains.

REMUNERATION AND COLLECTIVE BARGAINING

Numsa and auto component manufacturers

  • Wage talks between the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) and employers in the auto component sector hit a deadlock on Friday raising fears of car makers such as Ford, Volkswagen and Toyota potentially being affected by strike action.
  • The current three-year agreement ends on 31 August.
  • The talks reached a stalemate after the union’s demand for a one-year deal for all workers across the automotive value chain was turned down by the Retail Motor Industry Organisation (RMI), which proposed a three-year deal.
  • Numsa also wants a 20% wage hike, as well as better housing and medical aid perks.
  • The dispute will be referred to mediation to try and break the impasse.

JOB MARKET, JOB CREATION AND RETRENCHMENTS

EFF and Tshwane Metro

  • Two Tshwane deputy city managers participated in a heated meeting with members of the EFF and the #OutsourcingMustFall movement last Thursday after scores of contracted workers blocked off the city’s Isivuno head office, demanding permanent jobs.

EFF and Tshwane Metro

  • Two Tshwane deputy city managers participated in a heated meeting with members of the EFF and the #OutsourcingMustFall movement last Thursday after scores of contracted workers blocked off the city’s Isivuno head office, demanding permanent jobs.

RESTRUCTURING / MERGERS / RETRENCHMENTS

Layoffs at Times Media

  • Looming retrenchments at the Times Media Group may leave 65 employees without jobs in two months after Group MD Andrew Gill confirmed last Thursday that the company was considering a restructuring of its media division operations due to “unfavourable market conditions”.
  • Retrenchments would affect workers at its major titles, including Sunday Times, Business Day The Times, Financial Mail and Sowetan.
  • The company, which has 1,311 employees, has already retrenched 40 employees in the past 12 months.
  • If the proposal to restructure is implemented, the company will integrate the reporting, photographic and production streams into a seven-day a week process that incorporates digital.
  • Employees have been given the options of taking voluntary retrenchment or early retirement.
  • Packages will amount to two months’ notice and one week’s cost to company for each completed year of service.
  • Consultative processes are expected to be finalised by 1 September 2016.

SABMiller takeover

  • The Competition Tribunal has approved the merger between SABMiller and Anheuser-Busch InBev, which will create the largest beer brewing company in the world.
  • Of specific relevance is that the evergreen restriction on merger-related retrenchments has been clarified with a provision which, after a period of five years, shifts to employees the burden of proving that any retrenchments were a result of the merger.  A provision relating to Zenzele employee share scheme, which was the subject of contention between the Food and Allied Workers Union (Fawu) and the merging parties, has been removed at the request of both parties (they will pursue this in separate discussions).
    In a statement released on Thursday, the tribunal said the conditions it has imposed were, for the most part, similar to those proposed by the commission in its recommendation and those contained in an earlier agreement between the merging parties and three government ministries.

Municipal staff costs

  • The Statistics SA financial census of municipalities revealed that the employee-related costs of municipalities grew by 43.9% between 2011 and 2015, or from R50bn in 2011 to R73bn in 2015.
  • These costs represents just over a quarter of municipalities’ total operating expenditure in the financial year ended in June 2015.
  • Explaining the increase in employee-related costs, Stats SA’s director for local government institutions, Malibongwe Mhemhe, said:  “The number of employees has increased and the salaries have increased.”
  • In urban and metro municipalities, the hiring of interns over and above the normal staff complement was an additional contributor to employee costs, while work being done in rural municipalities required the hiring of more manual labour.
Download PDF