DISPUTES AND INDUSTRIAL ACTION

Robertson Winery

Following resolution of the 14-week strike at the end of 2016, a new dispute has arisen at Robertson Winery (RW), with workers accusing the company of not respecting the agreement signed in November.  The new dispute focus on the union allegation that RW has ignored the strike period in calculating back-pay as well as bonuses. The agreement with the Commercial, Stevedoring and Allied Workers’ Union (Csaawu) and RW provided for a wage increase of R400 or 8%, whichever was the larger, backdated to 8 August 2016.  They also agreed on bonuses, to be calculated using a 12-month pay cycle. Although there was some new strike action the union leadership advised members to return to work whilst the issue is being discussed with lawyers representing the union.

Harmony underground sit-in

About 1,700 miners embarked on an illegal and unprotected underground sit-in at Harmony Gold’s Kusasalethu mine on the West Rand last Wednesday. The sit-in was resolved by Friday after involvement of Amcu leadership. The sit-in relates to bonus payments.

REMUNERATION

National minimum wage

Based on news reports it appears that deliberations at the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) on a national minimum wage (NMW) and measures to stabilise labour relations are far advanced.  They could be finalised ahead of President Jacob Zuma’s state of the nation address on 9 February.  Department of Labour chief director of labour relations, Thembinkosi Mkalipi, indicated that the Nedlac parties were hoping to wrap up their negotiations on the NMW and the labour relations system at meetings held last Wednesday and to be held again this coming week.  He did not believe there would be any change to the NMW of R20 per hour recommended by the panel set up by Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa.  Yet, the legislative process of incorporating the agreement into law will take some time.

Executive remuneration

The possibility of a binding vote on executive remuneration is on the Department of Trade and Industry’s (DTI’s) agenda, but it is not certain it will be included in the Companies Amendment Bill due to be put to the Cabinet next month due to no consensus yet.  At present, there is no requirement in the act for any form of vote on a company’s executive remuneration policy.  It only requires companies to disclose the compensation paid to directors and prescribed officers.  The King code recommends that listed companies put a nonbinding resolution to their shareholders to give them an opportunity to indicate their support for the company’s remuneration policy.  The JSE indicated in November that it was considering including a mandatory, though nonbinding, vote on remuneration in its requirements.

JOB MARKET, JOB CREATION, RESTRUCTURING & RETRENCHMENTS

Barbrook mine

Operations are set to recommence by the end of January at Vantage Goldfields’ Barbrook mine in Mpumalanga.  The mine was placed in business rescue at the end of December and its operations were halted shortly after its sister Lily mine was also placed in business rescue.  Business rescuer Rob Devereux said in a statement that operations at the mine will be more focused on ensuring maximum output under difficult circumstances.  After a collapse at Lily Mine in February 2016, 130 mineworkers were redeployed to Barbrook.  Workers have not been paid since November 2016.

At a meeting on 11 January they will be advised about the rescue process and how it will affect them.  Meantime, the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) says it was not consulted when Barbrook decided to put its operations under business rescue and that the move was in contravention of sections of the Minerals and Petroleum Resources Development Act.

LEGAL, LEGISLATION & COMPLIANCE

Legal Practice Council quotas

The National Forum on the Legal Profession (NFLP), tasked with making the legal profession more accessible, announced that it will not budge from its recommended race and gender quotas in respect of the Legal Practice Council (LPC).  According to the Legal Practice Act of 2014, the LPC, made up of 24 members, will, inter alia, have the power to regulate legal practitioners.  The NFLP was set up by the Department of Justice to guide policy surrounding the LPC.

Lobby group the Association for Afrikaans (VRA) has labelled the proposed quotas, which will be sent to Justice Minister Michael Masutha next month, illegal.  VRA spokesman Tiaan van Dyk said the transformation mandate should not be thrust upon voting members in the council, as this was akin to prescribing which advocates and attorneys should be voted for.

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