DISPUTES AND INDUSTRIAL ACTION

City of Tshwane: Temporary meter-readers

About 50 meter-reading workers, whose temporary contracts will soon end, protested this week by allegedly keeping two senior municipal officials briefly hostage in their offices. Their demands included being appointed on a permanent basis and receiving a danger allowance.  The protesters said their action would continue until Mayor Solly Msimanga addressed their demands.

 City of Tshwane: Executive racism

The acting director of energy and electricity in the City of Tshwane, Frans du Toit, has been accused by the ANC caucus of calling black people baboons and refusing for them to speak their mother tongue.  Mayoral spokesperson Samkelo Mgobozi said they were aware of the allegations and had taken the matter up with those involved.

Rand Water: Sebokeng

Workers at the Rand Water sanitation plant in Sebokeng in the Vaal had stopped working, alleging that management had short paid them regarding bonuses and leave days due to them participating in strike action late in 2016. The workers have also claimed that half of their workforce has been retrenched unfairly, but the employer indicated that most of the workers are on contract or in temporary jobs.  The Department of Water and Sanitation, as the overall employer, said it was in the process of resolving the matter.

Fedusa Section 77 protest action notice

The Federation of Unions of SA (Fedusa) is taking a stand against government’s alleged failure to appoint “suitably qualified, accountable, responsible and responsive” management at some of SA’s vital parastatals.  A notice of intended protest action under Section 77 of the Labour Relations Act has been lodged with the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) to compel the State-owned enterprises (SoEs) concerned to undergo an independent forensic audit of all board and procurement activities over the past five years and open unhindered access for recognised unions to internal and external audit reports of the past three financial years.  Protest action, including stayaways and go-slows, will be the order of the day at the targeted SoEs, which include SAA, Eskom, Denel and the SABC, pending the appointment of an independent forensic auditor within three months, said Fedusa’s Dennis George on Monday.

REMUNERATION

Consumer inflation increases

Consumer inflation moved further outside the SA Reserve Bank’s 3%-6% target range in December 2016, to 6.8%.  The rate in November was 6.6%.  Between November and December, CPI increased by 0.4%.  Food inflation is still running high in SA, due to the lagged effects of the drought of last year.  Food and nonalcoholic beverages inflation was 11.7% year-on-year in December, picking up slightly from 11.6% in November.  The average inflation for 2016 was 6.4%, which was in line with the expectations of the Reserve Bank.

Cosatu and the inequality gap

Cosatu expressed the view that inequality would continue to worsen in South Africa after an Oxfam report revealed that three South Africa’s billionaires have the same wealth as the bottom 50% of the country’s population. Cosatu said that this was because government has kept its hands off the running of the country’s economy, leaving the plight of the poor at the mercy of monopoly capital with its wealth accumulation agenda.  Cosatu is of the view to counter this, that a South Africais needed where the state actively ensures that those on the periphery of the economy are able to participate in growing the economy.

Grade R teachers’ increase

Thousands of KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) Grade R teachers who claimed they were being short-changed by the education department had their salaries increased by R500 a month this week in an effort to prevent them walking out of classrooms.  This means, inclusive of backpay for nine months, that many of the 6,000 Grade R teachers received up to R4,500.  Grade R teachers in KZN will now receive a minimum monthly salary of R6,000.  This follows years of negotiations between the province and the National Teachers Union (Natu), which has been demanding that Grade R teachers be paid salaries on par with teachers in other provinces.  Natu however believes much more needs to be done to improve benefits and a follow-up meeting is scheduled for Tuesday.

JOB MARKET, JOB CREATION, RESTRUCTURING & RETRENCHMENTS

IMF report on SA’s skills mix

South Africa’s inadequate labour market skills mix has been flagged by the IMF as being out of step with the demands of the country’s economy.  The IMF published its updated World Economic Outlook last Monday, in which it estimated SA’s growth at 0.8% in 2017 and 1.6% in 2018.  Growth in 2016 was pegged at 0.3%.  The IMF indicated that more broad-based reform to education and labour are needed.

Technical and vocational education and training colleges (TVET)

Students from the TVET have threatened to shut down the country’s 50 TVET colleges.  They cited poor infrastructure, the ban on political groupings on campuses, unqualified lecturers and massive certificate backlogs as the prime reasons for the nationwide standoff with the government.  A total shutdown will affect the colleges’ registration process, which began last Monday.  SA Further Education and Training Student Association (Safetsa) president Yonke Twani said they have been engaging with the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) since 2012 to work together to address the issues, “but the department have (has) been giving us very foolish responses.”  On Wednesday, DHET Minister Blade Nzimande called for all involved to engage in discussions.  He said the department was determined not to let the shutdown go on for long.

Sadtu and lay-offs at TVET colleges

Unions Sadtu and Nehawu criticised the retrenchment of contract support staff and lecturers at technical and vocational education and training (TVET) colleges in KwaZulu-Natal, as “counter-productive”.  Nomarashiya Caluza, SA Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) provincial secretary, said the services of 136 lecturers and 36 support staff members were terminated this month because of low student enrolment figures for 2017.  Employees at Coastal College were the most affected by the move.  She indicated that the union would defend the jobs of its members and a meeting would be called with all the affected workers “for preparation of confrontation” with their employers.  Ayanda Zulu, National Education Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) spokesperson, said they supported the total shut-down of the colleges until the matter is resolved.

EU chicken imports

It appears that a hike in the safeguard duty on bone-in chicken imports from the EU is to be a likely outcome of a high-level meeting between the government, business and labour last week.  The meeting of about 40 representatives of various government departments, industry, trade unions and state entities decided to set up a joint task team to address the short, medium and long-term challenges facing the poultry industry, including devising ways to ward off the imminent retrenchments and plant closures by producers.  Another outcome of the meeting was that the government would negotiate with chicken producers such as RCL Foods to consider ways to avoid plant closures and retrenchments.  RCL plans to retrench 1,355 workers at the end of January.  An interdepartmental government task team has been working on a rescue plan for the industry since mid-November and has accumulated a body of data on the structure of the industry, import penetration, cost drivers, competitiveness and transformation.

LEGAL, LEGISLATION & COMPLIANCE

UJ sexual harassment case

A University of Johannesburg (UJ) manager accused of sexually harassing a colleague continuously for several years was allowed to resign a day before an internal inquiry into his conduct was set to start.  The former manager allegedly sent his female subordinate pornographic materials via his official work e-mail between 2008 and 2010.  The harassment then allegedly turned physical.  Matters came to a head in July last year after the manager tried to institute disciplinary processes against the victim for being in hospital and not notifying him.  As a result of this ‘witch-hunt’, the victim was then left with no choice but to lodge her own grievance proceedings.

The disciplinary hearing was set for 11 August, but the manager resigned the day before.  Asked why UJ had not instituted legal proceedings against the manager when he resigned, UJ spokesperson Kaamini Reddy indicated that if an employee resigns, it ends the contract which grants UJ the power to take action against the person.  A police spokesperson confirmed that a case had been opened by the victim, but said no one had been arrested yet.

HEALTH AND SAFETY

South African mine fatalities

Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane announced that the number of people killed on South African mines in 2016 fell 5% year-on-year to 73, with large gold and platinum mines the largest contributors.  The number of injuries fell to 2,662 from 3,138 in the previous year.  Zwane also reported that the number of reported occupational diseases declined by 1%.  In the platinum sector the number of fatalities increased by 29% to 27, while the number of deaths in the gold sector fell by 3% to 30.  The biggest cause of deaths on mines came from falls of ground, which contributed to a third of fatalities, while transport and railway equipment contributed 14%.  General accidents made up 21%.

DiamondCorp and Lily Mine

DiamondCorp has announced it is looking to raise £1 million as part of a plan to assist with its 74% owned Lace diamond mine that has been placed under business rescue.  The mining, development and exploration company added that discussions were on-going between the business rescue practitioner and the company, labour unions and rest of the workforce with regard to care and maintenance work to start.  DiamondCorp further said that an agreement between the business rescue practitioner and the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) needed to be finalised in the near term for the group to remain a going concern.

PEOPLE

Busa appoints new CEO

Business Unity South Africa (Busa) has appointed Tanya Cohen as new CEO. She is replacing Jerry Vilakazi.  Cohen has been appointed for a three-year term.  Busa said in a statement that Cohen brings to the organisation a wealth of expertise in the policy arena and a track record of hard work on behalf of organised business.  It added:  “She has demonstrated her ability to influence pro-business outcomes through her work in Nedlac on the Labour Relations Stability process aimed at addressing prolonged and violent strikes and the successful extension of the Employment Tax Incentive.”

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