REMUNERATION AND COLLECTIVE BARGAINING

Gautrain

The United National Transport Union (Untu) and Gautrain operator Bombela failed to reach an agreement at the CCMA following threats of union members going on strike due to a wage disagreement.

The disagreement regarding whether the union could go on strike or not follows deadlocked wage negotiations with the union demanding 9% and the Company offering 7,6%.

Telkom sabotage

In acts of sabotage seemingly related to the current wage dispute between Telkom and the Communication Workers Union (CWU) cables were vandalised in various parts of the country.

Telkom is concerned that further acts of sabotage could occur.

The CMU went on strike two weeks ago demanding, among other things, an 11% salary increase and six months’ paid maternity leave.

Petrol strike introspection

According to the National Employers’ Association of SA (Neasa), employers are becoming immune to strike action and unions must come to the table with realistic demands.

Neasa used the recent three-week petroleum sector strike as a case in point: The unions demanded 9%, and went on strike on an employer offer of 7%. After a three-week strike the unions settled at 7%. In addition the strike seemingly caused little disruption to supply.

Eskom above-inflation agreement

Eskom says its above-inflation wage settlement with trade unions will not affect its future tariff trajectory because it is making savings in other areas, such as diesel consumption.

Eskom has agreed to give lower-paid employees an increase of 10% and higher-paid employees 8.5% in each of the next two years.

The housing allowance has increased by R260 to R2,860 a month in the first year and by R140 to R3,000 in the second year.

The settlement is both above headline consumer price inflation of 6.3% and the 7.06% average annual increase in manpower costs allowed by the National Energy Regulator in its multiyear price determination decision for Eskom’s tariff increases from 2013/2014 to 2016/2018.

Aspen

The EFF joined protesting Aspen Pharmacare workers on Tuesday at the Port Elizabeth plant because they fear the ongoing strike could affect the supply of antiretrovirals (ARVs).

The party’s Nelson Mandela Bay branches took part in the strike after an e-mail to the pharmaceutical giant’s management about the strike’s impact on the lifesaving medication went unanswered.

They joined striking Aspen workers, who were also picketing outside the plant.

According to the SA Chemical Workers’ Union’s Thulani Radasi, workers want a wage increment of 10%, but are being offered 7.5%.

DISPUTES, INDUSTRIAL ACTION AND DEMONSTRATIONS

Marikana

The Presidency said on Thursday that the government will make an offer of payments in full settlement of claims arising from the 2012 Marikana shooting in due course (the announcement is vague regarding specific timelines).

In 2015 President Zuma announced that government was looking at starting the process to expedite all claims arising from the shooting which happened four years ago.

To date government has not yet arrived at final figures but has appointed an actuary to quantify each claim.

Lily Mine developments

The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) marched to the offices of the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) in Pretoria on Thursday demanding that the Lily Mine rescue mission be resumed and the container recovered.

An irate Amcu leader Joseph Mathunjwa eventually refused to hand over a memorandum after the union was met by two relatively junior DMR officials (they were expecting either the Minister or Deputy).

At the march Amcu called on government to use its disaster fund and finance the recovery of the container.  It also called on Mineral Resources Minister Joseph Zwane to “live up to his word and pay the families R200,000 and survivors R50,000 like promised, as many of them are left destitute without an income since February.”

In a related development employees of Lily Mine received money from their provident fund after not receiving salaries for three months. UIF payments are seemingly still outstanding.

JOB MARKET, JOB CREATION, RESTRUCTURING AND RETRENCHMENTS

KZN municipal mergers

In KZN, the Municipal Demarcation Board announced 37 changes to municipal boundaries, with the number of municipalities in the province going down from 61 to 54.  As new councils now get ready to convene for the first time, fears of job losses persist and have worsened, especially in areas with hung councils (seven).

KZN’s MEC for co-operative governance and traditional affairs, Nomusa Dube-Ncube, has spent the past few months crisscrossing the province to allay concerns.

Stakeholders — including the unions, municipal officials, traditional leaders and different communities — have been involved to ensure a smooth process.

Last year her department even appointed change management committees to oversee the delicate process of staff retention, along with the management of municipal properties, land, vehicles and related issues arising from mergers.

Panel on national minimum wage level

The seven economists appointed to set the country’s national minimum wage (NMW) began their work on Thursday with labour federation Cosatu warning the state to approach the process with urgency.

The panel, appointed by Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, held meetings with National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) constituents to receive input on a NMW floor.

The panel is expected to announce a proposed minimum wage level in two months.

The panel is chaired by Imraan Valodia‚ a part-time member of the Competition Tribunal as well as a commissioner on the Employment Conditions Commission.

Sugar tax and employment

The Beverage Association of SA (BevSA) has warned that up to 70,000 jobs in the industry could be lost if the Treasury’s mooted tax on sugar-sweetened drinks were to be implemented in its current form.

The findings are based on an independent study conducted by Oxford Economics and commissioned by the association.

The study found the proposed tax would result in 60,000-70,000 workers losing their jobs.

About 60% of the jobs lost would be direct, upstream jobs.

On Tuesday, Coca-Cola Beverages Africa called on stakeholders to assist the industry in opposing the proposed tax to save jobs.

The Food and Allied Workers Union (Fawu) said it would have a problem with the proposed tax if it resulted in the volume of job losses the industry predicted.

Widening of UIF coverage

Providing unemployment cover for people who resign and have no alternative employment and those who work in the informal sector, as recommended by Nedlac, would be fraught with problems.

Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) commissioner Boas Seruwe has in the past supported widening the net of beneficiaries and has indicated that the fund has resources for it.

The Labour Department’s Thembinkosi Mkalipi said in a briefing to MPs that Nedlac (National Economic Development and Labour Council) had requested that informal and self-employed workers be provided with unemployment insurance, as well as those who resigned.

But, the department is not keen to adopt these proposals immediately, without first investigating their cost.

Mkalipi said that including the informal sector and the self-employed would place strain on the fund and raised the problem of defining when a person in the informal sector became unemployed.

Also, the department was reluctant to create an incentive for people to leave their jobs to access benefits.

Providing for paternity leave — another Nedlac proposal — would be affordable if the informal sector was not included within the ambit of the fund, Mkalipi indicated.

COMMUNITY AND GENERAL

Lonmin housing

Lonmin will investigate a statement made by its spokesperson that miners at its platinum mine in Marikana do not want houses and want to live in informal settlements.

Mine spokesperson Sue Vey – in an interview with News24 on Thursday – was responding to a damning report by Amnesty International detailing how Lonmin was still failing to provide adequate housing for its workforce in Marikana.

Vey said part of the reason the company had not built adequate housing was because “miners chose to live in informal settlements”.  She went on to say:  “We have learnt our employees don’t want houses.  They want to go back to their home countries and province… They choose to live in informal settlements.”

However, Lonmin CEO Ben Magara refuted this was the case on Friday.  “We have launched an investigation into the matter as to how this statement came about,” he indicated.

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