REMUNERATION AND COLLECTIVE BARGAINING

Shrinking of net-pay

Disposable salaries in August 2016 are about 2,5% lower than in August 2015 according to the  BankservAfrica disposable salary index This is the third consecutive month of declines in real disposable salaries.  Above-inflation increases in medical insurance costs and real personal income tax contributed to the growing gap between gross and net salaries.  Pensions did much better than disposable salaries.  Total pension payments were 13% higher in August 2016 than in August 2015.

 Amcu and Sasol

The Amcu strike at Sasol Mining is entering its second month with seemingly conflicting views between national and regional Amcu leadership regarding the willingness to end the strike. Amcu is insisting in media reports that it would strike until all demands are met.  Incidents of violence, intimidation and vandalism have been reported. Sasol’s Secunda Synfuels Operations are continuing with no impact on production.

Table Mountain cableway

About 120 Table Mountain Aerial Cableway Company (TMACC) employees have commenced strike action last week demanding a wage increase of 15% after discussions between the SA Commercial, Catering and Allied Workers’ Union (Saccawu) and the TMACC management deadlocked.  The union was presented with an offer of a 10% increase to all staff earning under R10,000 and 8% the others.  The offer was rejected.

DISPUTES, INDUSTRIAL ACTION AND DEMONSTRATIONS

Dismissed Cape Town opera singers

Twelve singers who were dismissed from or stopped working with the Cape Town Opera (CTO) last month because of a feud over contracts filed a statement of opposition with the Labour Court on Wednesday in response to the company’s initial claim against them.  According to media reports, upon their return in July from performing at the Festival Aix-en-Provence in France they were found by the opera to have violated the terms of their contract.  The opera initially filed a claim with the Labour Court on 17 August on the basis that the singers, by accepting pay from the French festival, “breached the terms and conditions of their employment contracts and caused it damages, loss and harm in quantifiable amounts”.  In the statement of opposition, however, the singers ask the court to “consider the gross misrepresentation by [CTO], placing twelve young lives, careers, dreams and ambitions at great and real risk in a far off country”. 

Limpopo MDR-TB facility shut down

The Modimolle MDR TB Unit, the only of its kind in Limpopo that provides treatment for extreme cases of drug resistant Tuberculosis (TB) has been temporarily shut down after the provincial health department suspended about 30 nurses. Nurses were served with suspension letters after they refused to work while wearing protective masks they viewed as sub-standard.

JOB MARKET, JOB CREATION, RESTRUCTURING AND RETRENCHMENTS

Chicken industry

According to Kevin Lovell, chief executive of the SA Poultry Association (Sapa), the SA poultry industry is set to lose thousands of jobs by the end of the year, brought on mainly by an oversupply of chicken imports flooding the market.  He was commenting on the pending job losses at Rainbow Chicken which could affect about 1,200 workers.  Lovell said for every 10,000 tons of chicken imported into South Africa, a little more than 1,000 jobs could be lost in the country.  He noted that the government was constrained by international trade protocols and only they could solve the problem.  Lovell added:  “We expect that by the end of the year about 6,000 jobs could be lost. We don’t see any light at the end of the tunnel.”  Edwin Mkhize, KZN provincial secretary for Cosatu, said the federation was concerned by the looming retrenchments at Rainbow Chicken and that the three shifts in processing would be reduced to one.

Mpumalanga teacher cuts

Labour federation Cosatu in support of its affiliate the SA Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) has announced a protest march in support of the union’s fight against the decision by the provincial education department to cut teacher posts from 32,637 to 31,206.

COMMUNITY, LEGAL AND GENERAL

Productivity SA

Productivity SA chief financial officer Bheki Dlamini has been suspended following allegations of irregularities in the management of funds provided by the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) for employment growth.  Productivity SA is a government entity tasked with growing employment and improving productivity.  The UIF has since 2010 provided it with funding to the tune of R188.2m to support companies in economic distress in order to turn them around and help save jobs.  However, a figure of some R36m has since 2011 been allegedly utilised for activities that are not related to job saving as per the contract between the UIF and Productivity SA.

Self-service till points at PnP

The SA Commercial, Catering and Allied Workers’ Union (Saccawu) will hold discussions with members on the new self-service till points at Pick n Pay with a view of boycotting these.  In a first of its kind in SA, the till points are being tested at the supermarket’s Observatory store in Cape Town.

HEALTH AND SAFETY

Lily Mine inspection

Attempts to inspect the localised geological conditions underground at Vantage Goldfields’ troubled Lily gold mine, in Barberton, have been aborted.  A Mine Rescue Service (MRS) risk assessment revealed deterioration along the 600 mm rescue shaft and the original ventilation shaft, rendering it unsafe to enter.  This follows the aborting of the initial retrieval and rescue of the container after three attempts to retrieve it in February.

Illegal mining

Illegal mining at abandoned and closed mines is “spiralling out of control”, with increasing numbers of injuries and deaths seen at mines across all commodities produced in SA.  In the meantime Cosatu called on the Chamber of Mines (COM) and Government “to explore the possibility of legalising and regulating the small scale mining as a way of minimising dangers and also removing the criminal elements that send some of these desperate people underground.”  The notion is seemingly far from being hare-brained and the COM has raised this notion too.

Absa Gallery art exhibition: Illegal miner link

The Absa gallery is hosting an exhibition by Mandy Johnston (In the presence of absence) in which works titled “Waiting Room” are featured. These works depict the area below ground where illegal miners, two by two, swap out in order to avoid too many in a tunnel at a time. The art work reflects on the trapping and death of 11 boys a few years’ ago in an illegal mining operation at the West Coast.

Govt calls for elimination of mining deaths, halt to spread of occupational diseases

The mining sector must strive to achieve zero harm by doing everything possible to prevent fatalities, injuries and the spread of diseases among workers at SA mines.  This was the plea of Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) acting mines chief inspector Xolile Mbonambi, who spoke at the SA Institute of Mining and Metallurgy’s 2016 MineSafe conference earlier this month.  He said South African mining industry stakeholders had to collectively adopt the fundamental stance that, if mines could not undertake mining safely, they should not mine at all until the necessary measures had been put in place to protect the lives of mineworkers.  He emphasised the DMR’s commitment to ensuring that the milestones that were agreed on by all industry stakeholders at the 2014 Mine Occupational Health and Safety Summit were achieved within the agreed timeline.

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