DISPUTES, INDUSTRIAL ACTION & DEMONSTRATIONS

Petroleum producer strike

  • In contrast to claims by the Chemical Energy Paper Printing Wood and Allied Workers’ Union (Ceppwawu), the South African Petroleum Industry Association (Sapia) has assured motorists that fuel pumps won’t run dry due to a strike among workers in the petroleum producing sector.
  • The strike entered its second day last Friday.
  • Ceppwawu is demanding a 9% pay hike, while employers have offered 7,0%.
  • Reports by Sapia indicated that almost 80% of all workers are at work, ignoring the strike.

JOB MARKET: JOB CREATION, RESTRUCTURING & RETRENCHMENTS

Farm job losses linked to minimum salaries

  • Research by the Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit (Saldru) at UCT suggests that the 2013 increase in the minimum wage for farm workers caused a drop in employment.
  • In March 2013, the statutory daily minimum wage for agricultural workers was increased by 52% increase (from R69 to R105 a day).  This followed widespread labour unrest, particularly in the Western Cape.
  • Previous research across various sectors had found that minimum wage increases had either insignificant or negative effects on employment rates.
  • However, they cautioned their results, saying that possible measurement errors and small sample sizes might have complicated the findings.
  • The researchers were unable to determine exactly how many jobs the wage increase cost.
  • The study also found that the average wage for rural farm workers increased, meaning that the legislation was being adhered to.

Loss of jobs in first half of year

  • Statistics SA’s quarterly labour force survey indicates that SA has lost almost 500,000 jobs in the first six months of 2016.
  • This meant that 5,6-million people were jobless and that the unemployment rate remains high at 26,6%.

Overseas recruitment of ICT skills

  • A Joburg Centre for Software Engineering (JCSE) ICT Skills Survey has found that the percentage of corporates recruiting skills from overseas has more than doubled over the past two years, from only 12% in 2014 to 26% this year.
  • “In retail and distribution, with a specific focus on consumers, there are simply not enough skilled people with the technical savvy to understand the differences in the latest technology,” said Werner Joubert, product country head at Asus.
  • But it is at corporate level where there is a real skills crisis at almost every ICT level, which has a dire effect on South African businesses.  According to the 2016 survey – released in July – 71% of businesses stated that the skills gap was at the least having a major effect, while as many as 29% said it was a threat to their viability.

ArcelorMittal, IDC: Highveld Steel

  • ArcelorMittal SA (AMSA) and the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) are considering options that may lead to the reopening of Evraz Highveld Steel and Vanadium heavy-section steel mill after it was closed when the business was wound down.
  • AMSA and the business rescuers for Highveld are looking at supplying blooms and slabs to the idled producer for it to process into heavy structural steel.  “If successful, this could result in the reopening of the heavy-section mill by the business rescue practitioner, making available the supply of heavy structural products into the South African market,” AMSA said in a statement on Friday.
  • AMSA and the IDC are considering the possibility of acquiring the mill after a year.
  • Highveld was placed under business rescue last year after a slump in demand and competition from imports let it with insufficient funds.

REMUNERATION & COLLECTIVE BARGAINING

Necsa wage agreement

  • The SA Nuclear Energy Corporation (Necsa) and labour unions reached agreement after lengthy negotiations.
  • The agreement provides for 7% increases to employees earning below R600,000 as well as a R5,000 once-off payment. Employees earning above R600,000 would receive a 6,1% increase.
  • Further negotiations to address other outstanding demands, such as medical aids and a thirteenth cheque, would be entered into within three months.

Platinum wage negotiations

  • Against the backdrop of salary negotiations commencing in the Platinum sector at Anglo, Impala and Lonmin, Sibanye Gold’s CEO Neal Froneman indicated to investors that the difficult market conditions in the mining industry would require “bitter medicine”, including cutting salaries.
  • This was particularly so for the platinum sector, which was on its knees amid metal price weakness and rising costs.  “We should be talking about reducing wages not increasing them by 50 percent,” Froneman said referring to the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union’s (Amcu’s) demand for a 47% wage hike at platinum majors.
  • At the same presentation, Jean Nel, CE of Sibanye’s platinum division, revealed that the Kroondal operation lost R56 million to wildcat strike action and R8 million in revenue to community protests in the past year.

Taxi driver increases

  • The Labour Department has issued new minimum wage levels for the taxi industry, which will see salaries increasing by an average of 6% as of 1 August 2016.
  • Taxi drivers will now be earning R3,218 per month, an increase of R188 per month.
  • The weekly wage for taxi drivers has increased from R697 to R742.
  • Rank marshals’ minimum wage will increase monthly from R2,414.63 to R2,564.33; weekly from R557.26 to R591.81 and hourly from R11.60 to R12.32.

GENERAL

SABC8 and ANN7 journalists

  • A fund set up to assist SA Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) journalists that were fired and last week reinstated by the Labour Court, has been extended to help other news reporters, including the nine who were recently dismissed by Gupta-owned television news channel ANN7.
  • The fund, called the Media Freedom Protection Fund, will assist journalists who need protection from unfair labour practices and financial support.
  • The ANN7 journalists were summarily fired in June for allegedly bringing the company into disrepute after they refused to be addressed by ANC Youth League president Collen Maine at the company premises in Midrand.
  • There have been several reports about ANN7 employees raising concerns about poor working conditions and low salaries.
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