Strike balloting and minimum wage decisions
Although still to be ratified by NEDLAC stakeholders, the specialists retained to develop a proposal on minimum wages has proposed that the South African minimum wage be set at R3,500 per month.
The proposal regarding arbitration involvement to resolve strikes (i.e. advisory arbitration before a strike commences and similar action if a strike continues for too long) has also been tabled as was the proposal for secret strike ballots before a strike may commence.
INDUSTRIAL ACTION AND DEMONSTRATIONS
March by EPWP workers in Msunduzi
In a dispute that seems not to get any closer to resolution, Pietermaritzburg municipal workers left a trail of destruction during a protest march to the offices of the Msunduzi Municipality last week. The SA Municipal Workers’ Union (Samwu) was protesting over the impending dismissal of nearly 1,000 temporary staff members under the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) Addressing a crowd of over 500 workers,
Samwu’s Rocky Madondo accused both city officials and political heads of abusive conduct towards workers. After dispersing, the workers emptied rubbish bins on the busy city centre streets forcing traffic to slow down during the rush hour traffic.
JOB MARKET, JOB CREATION, RESTRUCTURING AND RETRENCHMENTS
Lesotho Special Permit applications
The South African Department of Home Affairs has offered Lesotho nationals living and working in SA an extended grace period until 31 December 2016 to apply for a Lesotho Special Permit (LSP). The department also made the application process more convenient and easier.
Employment tax incentive cap scrapped
Treasury has accepted the request by business to scrap the proposed R20m cap on annual claims per employer under the employment tax incentive (ETI), which aims to promote youth employment. The R20m cap formed part of the proposals by Treasury in extending the scheme for another two years.
HEALTH AND SAFETY
R1.5bn lung disease compensation
Amidst positive debate at the Mine Health and Safety Council conference the past week regarding the curbing of TB in the mining industry it appears that R1.5 billion is lying idle, waiting for 105,000 former mineworkers with lung disease to be found so the cash can be given to them. The workers’ details were not captured or were lost as SA’s two dysfunctional workers’ compensation funds (in the departments of health and labour respectively) were dissolved. The latest auditor-general’s report has highlighted major financial and governance troubles in the funds, which are meant to help employees who get injured at work or who contract diseases.
Power of safety inspectors
The Chamber of Mines of SA (COM) indicated that a Labour Court decision overturning a government-imposed safety stoppage at an AngloGold Ashanti (AGA) mine placed limits on the power of state inspectors. The mining industry has long complained that government inspectors have been imposing arbitrary work stoppages over safety, costing billions of rand in lost output and putting mines and jobs on the line. The ruling concerned a so-called Section 54 safety stoppage at AGA’s Kopanang mine last month. The judge found that the blanket stoppage of the entire mine because of infractions in one section only was disproportionate. However, the decision was criticized by both Amcu and the Num during the Mine Health and Safety Council Conference which was held last week.
NUM and the Guptas
The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) denied that it has been captured by the Guptas.. General Secretary (GS) David Sipunzi has admitted that his failed 2012 campaign for office was funded by a Gupta mining company, Shiva Uranium. The union also has confirmed that under his leadership it received R1.5-million in sponsorship from the Gupta-owned Oakbay Resources for a union conference held earlier this year (this is however not out of the ordinary since the Num has in the past received sponsorships from mining companies for its conferences).
NUM militancy ambitions
General Secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers (Num), David Sipunzi, told the 300 delegates at the Num’s youth structure elective congress that in order to regain respect from workers, it must become militant again. He indicated that the union had lost momentum and its future was in the hands of its young members.
CWU, calls for Zuma resignation
Calls for President Jacob Zuma to step down are gaining momentum within labour federation Cosatu, with the Communication Workers Union (CWU) now declaring it has lost faith in his administration. The CWU wants the federation’s central executive committee meeting this week to debate the matter, including questions around the relevance of Cosatu’s alliance with the ANC and SACP in light of repeated failures by the government to heed workers’ demands. This follows a similar decision by Cosatu’s biggest affiliate, the National Health Education & Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) a month ago.
There are divisions emerging in the faction of Cosatu that remains loyal to President Jacob Zuma, which includes Cosatu president Dlamini. This comes as Cosatu’s major unions find themselves at odds with Dlamini. The unions have openly defied his call to refrain from entering the ANC leadership debate and to mute the criticism of recent government scandals.
Medical aid increases
Medical aid schemes are announcing double digit increases with Discovery Health Medical Scheme indicating it would cap its increase at 10.2%, with hikes across its 22 options ranging from 7.8% to 14.9%. Bonitas indicated it would increase contributions by 11.9% across all its options, while Momentum would cap its increases at 11%.