DISPUTES, INDUSTRIAL ACTION & DEMONSTRATIONS

PetroSA, Numsa and Ceppwawu

The National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) declared a dispute and is waiting for a date to be given by the CCMA to submit argument that all staff at PetroSA should receive a bonus this year.  Despite a loss of R14.5bn at the cash-strapped state-owned company, 11 executives received bonuses totaling more than R17m, while other staff members received no bonuses at all.  Of significance is that employees at the company have flocked to Numsa to continue their campaign for bonus parity, thereby resigning from the Chemical Energy Paper Printing Wood and Allied Workers’ Union (Ceppwawu) in droves.  The former Ceppwawu chairman at PetroSA, Zolani Tyatya, is now the Numsa chairman at the firm.  PetroSA is also planning to cut its 1,800 strong workforce by 40% (they retrenched 250 employees in 2015).

Ekurhuleni go-slow

A labour dispute has resulted in a go-slow which resulted in uncollected waste in Germiston. The dispute is about employees demanding more overtime pay.

Gauteng forensic pathology services

About 750 employees of the forensic pathology services in Gauteng have been on an illegal strike since the beginning of the month.  The Health Department was granted a court interdict to end the strike and forensic officers returned to work.  It appears that the dispute is about the lack of danger pay and a dissection allowance.  A departmental spokesperson said forensic officers were not registered with statutory bodies and were not eligible to receive those allowances.

Numsa and national minimum wage

The National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) says it is set for rolling mass action in protest against the “super-exploitative” national minimum wage of R3 500 proposed at Nedlac.  General secretary Irvin Jim said the proposal determined through a Nedlac process was a continuation of the exploitation designed to exclude blacks from economic participation.  He added that if the government was serious about a minimum wage, it would have gone sector by sector and company by company to establish their annual returns, how much their CEOs earned and what workers were paid.  Numsa, which will hold an elective congress in Cape Town next week, said it would also be protesting against what the union sees as government’s “attempt to limit the right to strike”.

RCL Foods and Fawu

RCL Foods joined the Food and Allied Workers Union (Fawu) on Wednesday in a march in Pietermartizburg to protest against the ongoing threats to job security as a result of increased dumping of imported chicken.  Some 350 protesters marched from the Mayors Walk to the KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Legislature where a memorandum was handed over.  RCL noted in a statement that the local industry was being forced to tighten its belt, threatening the livelihoods of chicken industry workers who faced retrenchment by year-end.  RCL consumer division MD Scott Pitman confirmed that the company would half production at its Hammarsdale plant from January 2017 and that 1,350 workers had already been affected.

JOB MARKET, JOB CREATION, RESTRUCTURING & RETRENCHMENTS

Pay freeze for top state office bearers

President Zuma’s acceptance of the recommendation for zero salary increases for top public office bearers comes after six years of healthy increases averaging about 5% a year.  Zuma determines their salaries based on‚ among other things‚ recommendations by the Independent Commission for the Remuneration of Public Office Bearers.  The office bearers affected include members of the executive, deputy ministers‚ MPs‚ judges‚ magistrates‚ mayors‚ traditional leaders and municipal councilors.  In its recommendations published last month‚ the commission said the proposed zero adjustment of salaries was as a result of economic distress.  It said all citizens should be aware of the country’s economic situation and make sacrifices in order to avoid economic meltdown.

Public sector medical specialists face possible lower income

A new overtime policy introduced by the national Department of Health could see some doctors in the public sector facing a pay cut as high as 30% in January.  Specialists will be the ones most affected by the policy.  Concerns were raised after the SA Medical Association (Sama) released a statement on Wednesday saying it intended lodging a formal dispute with the National Bargaining Council about the department’s decision.  The new overtime policy, which was signed and released by Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi recently, essentially prevents doctors from claiming overtime payment.

Sama chairperson Dr Mzukisi Grootboom said this development had caused a great deal of anxiety within the medical fraternity “because it has overtaken the current consultative labour processes”.  Motsoaledi’s spokesperson Joe Maila advised that there had been an extensive process of consultation prior to the finalisation of the new policy.  He added that the department “remains committed to continue working with the relevant stakeholders on additional concerns that may be raised.”

Job protests at Lephalale power stations

High unemployment in Lephalale, home to Eskom’s Medupi and Matimba power stations and an open pit coal mine, has brought the town’s mayor and jobless people on a collision course.  The situation has been sparked marches and riots, resulting in allegations of police brutality.  Local residents want to be given first preference for employment at the power stations, which often attract even people from other areas.  Some unemployed people who tried to stage a march on Tuesday last week, who accused the Lephalale mayor of controlling employment processes, were dispersed by police who fired rubber bullets at them.

LEGAL, LEGISLATION AND COMPLIANCE

Workers Association Union (WAU)

A huge civil suit involving staggering claims about the involvement of President Zuma, State Security Minister David Mahlobo and government intelligence agents in the formation of a new labour union aimed at destabilising the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) was postponed in the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria on Friday.

The media revealed earlier this year that Thebe Maswabi, a founding member of the Workers Association Union (WAU), was suing Zuma, Mahlobo, Police Minister Nkosinathi Nhleko and Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula for R120m.

Maswabi claimed that he had allegedly received large bundles of cash from covert intelligence agents to establish the WAU in Rustenburg in 2014.

According to Maswabi, he had been told to set up the new union so that it could draw support away from labour leader Joseph Mathunjwa’s Amcu.

Maswabi also claimed that Zuma had orchestrated the project and that he had met with the president several times before the plan was implemented. This included a meeting with Zuma in London.

Lily Mine

The Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) announced that the investigation into the tragic Lily Mine disaster, which left three mineworkers trapped underground, will be converted into an inquiry in terms of section 66 of the Mine Health and Safety Act.  Xolile Mbonambi, the Acting Chief Inspector of Mines, indicated this when the department appeared before the Portfolio Committee on Mineral Resources to give an update on progress made with regards to the mine disaster which happened in February 2016.

UNION POLITICS

Vavi’s new trade union federation

The new trade union umbrella body has set down 2017 as the year to fight white monopoly capital.  The new federation, consisting of 50 unions including some break away unions from Cosatu, held a briefing last week at the National Union of Metalworkers of SA’s (Numsa’s) offices in the Johannesburg CBD.  Its leader, Zwelinzima Vavi, said the body did not yet have a name or logo, but he encouraged workers to go online and weigh in (link:  New Federation).  He also announced that the new federation was gearing up towards its formal founding congress in March 2017.  The new federation will take a militant fighting approach for workers’ rights and a range of plans include pickets at the JSE, a strike to coincide with the budget speech and other actions in the fight against white monopoly capital.

Cosatu KZN backs Ramaphosa

Cosatu in KwaZulu-Natal has outlined the reasons it feels strongly that Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa should succeed President Jacob Zuma at next year’s ANC elective conference.  Addressing the media, Cosatu provincial secretary Edwin Mkhize emphasised that Ramaphosa “can be a suitable president” and went into Ramaphosa’s struggle, leadership and business credentials.  Mkhize said the fact that Ramaphosa was the founding general secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers meant that he had workers’ interests at heart as he “has a good understanding of the plight of workers”.  He lashed out at those who want to exclude Ramaphosa because he is a wealthy businessman, saying he “a balance of understanding what workers need, and what business needs, and what the government is supposed to be doing.”

Numsa’s political party

The National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) has vowed to launch ahead of the 2019 general elections what it calls a workers’ party.  The union said the party would focus on improving the lives of the poor and working class and work to realise promises made in the Freedom Charter.

EMPLOYEE BENEFITS

Ugu municipal employees on strike

Ugu district municipal employees in KwaZulu-Natal went on strike over pension issues on Thursday last week.  As a result, many towns on the South Coast have been left without water.  Employees belonging to the SA Municipal Workers’ Union (Samwu) are demanding to be paid their pension fund contributions, as promised by Mayor Tolomane Myayiza at a meeting held on Wednesday.

Ugu is allegedly cutting ties with Sanlam due to (allegedly) Sanlam overcharging them for the past two years. During the strike, Ugu management has tried to negotiate with the union, but workers have demanded that negotiations should take place in front of them.

HEALTH AND SAFETY

Department of Labour’s Compensation Fund

The Department of Labour’s Compensation Fund has made steady improvements in the processing of claims, with R2.5bn in medical, compensation and pension claims processed so far this year.  The fund’s commissioner, Vuyo Mafatha, reported to members of Parliament’s labour portfolio committee on Wednesday that in 2015-16, R1.8bn of claims were processed, R943m in 2014-15 and R1.1bn in 2013-14.  So far 67% of the claims backlogs has been eradicated.

The fund has faced an avalanche of complaints and legal action because of its failure to pay out claims arising from illness or injury at work, some of which date back several years.  It launched an action plan last year to improve service delivery.

COMMUNITY

Kleinzee

The closure in 2012 of the diamond mines owned by De Beers in the small town of Kleinzee, in the Namakwa district, left thousands of people jobless.  It also led to the closure of businesses and the migration of workers.  The population in the area dwindled from about 7,000 in 2012 to just under 1,000 today.  Residents still remaining in the area complain there is nothing left but dilapidated buildings because the government has stopped infrastructure development.  Meanwhile, De Beers has said it was trying its best to restore the area through the establishment of an oyster and an abalone farm just outside town.  Also, the Nama Khoi municipality says there are plans in place to revitalise the area and create employment.  “We plan to tar the road to Kleinzee T-junction, incorporate Eskom’s electricity network and remove illegal waste dumps,” the municipality indicated.  It also plans to upgrade tourism attractions and multipurpose centres, and embark on solar water-heating and renewable energy projects.

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