DISPUTES AND INDUSTRIAL ACTIONS

Unisa and Nehawu

The University of SA (Unisa) and the National Health Education & Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) were due to resume talks last Friday after protest action at all its campuses over salary increases.  The university’s registration process was brought to a standstill on Thursday.  The university is offering workers a 4.5% pay rise, while the union demand is not clear (officially 14% is quoted and unofficially 104%).

Sadtu and Limpopo handbooks

The SA Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) in Limpopo has given the education department three weeks to resolve issues surrounding learning materials for both pupils and teachers or it will force schools to close.  This was announced during a Sadtu march to the provincial department of education on Thursday.  The march, led by Cosatu and its affiliates in the education sector, comes days after the issue surrounding the non-delivery of stationery and textbooks was again highlighted.  Dozens of schools in the province have yet to receive these items.

TVET Colleges

Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande was due to meet with the SA Further Education and Training Students Association on Friday about ongoing concerns regarding the state of technical and vocational education and training (TVET) colleges.  Announcing the meeting (previous attempts to meet were unsuccessful) Nzimande said that while the concerns being raised were genuine, it was critical that demonstrators allowed the academic year to commence uninterrupted.

Wage strike at DB Schenker

National Union of Metal Workers of SA (Numsa) members at DB Schenker, one of the largest suppliers of car parts for Mercedes-Benz SA, commenced strike action on Monday over a wage dispute.  The demand is for an hourly fee increase of R25 a hour from the R35 an hour they are paid at present to R60 an hour.  The workers also want their labour broker (Phakisa) to be disbanded

REMUNERATION

2017 inflation expectations

The Bureau for Economic Research (BER) said that its recent survey results indicated that average consumer inflation expectations for 2017 declined from 6.0% in the third quarter to 5.8% in the fourth quarter.  This was the first time since the third quarter of 2015 that average expectations were below 6%.

The survey respondents did not change their view much on economic growth.  They still expected that it would accelerate from 0.6% in 2016 to 1.3% in 2017.

JOB MARKET, JOB CREATION, RESTRUCTURING & RETRENCHMENTS

Possible Sibanye retrenchments

Sibanye announced that it planned to retrench about 330 workers at its newly acquired platinum mines as it seeks to eliminate duplicated roles and cut about R800 million in costs at the affected mines.  The company has notified its workers of the impending retrenchments and is set to begin consultations with affected parties.  The company expects the consultation process to last two months and has highlighted R800m in costs and operational synergies that need to be realised between the Kroondal and Rustenburg operations to ensure sustainability.

NUM claim of job cuts at AngloGold

AngloGold Ashanti (AGA) has refuted a claim that the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) has reached agreement with the gold producer to save more than 800 jobs.  AGA said that, although talks to mitigate job shedding started on last week, it was premature to announce that retrenchments were not going ahead as planned.  The NUM announced on Monday that its meeting with AGA had been successful and that the company would no longer be retrenching workers.

Lonmin’s “failed” productivity drive

David McKay reports in an article that Platinum producer Lonmin’s operational and financial woes deepened in the first quarter of its 2017 financial year in which it said it was losing money and might cut capital expenditure as the year progressed.  The quarter was typified by lower-than-expected productivity and absenteeism at the Rustenburg premises.  Lost production owing to safety stoppages, which was a major grievance in Lonmin’s last financial year, had fallen in the quarter, although the company still lost significant tonnes.  But it was the apparent under-performance of Lonmin’s productivity drive, which it implemented following retrenchments of about 6,000 staff last year that was its major issue in the first quarter.  Lonmin identified K3 shaft, its largest, as the main culprit saying that the relationship between management and union leaders was not functioning well enough while productivity initiatives were not taking grip.

Rainbow Chicken commences retrenchments

Rainbow Chicken (RCL) Foods this week commenced retrenchment of 1,350 employees at its Hammersdale plant. The retrenchments is partly blamed on cheap EU chicken imports.  The job cuts are going ahead despite last-minute, relentless discussions among unions, the government and producers.

Cosatu and Chinese workers

Labour federation Cosatu demanded an investigation by the Department of Labour and an immediate deportation of Chinese nationals who are allegedly working illegally in SA.  This was after a Cosatu investigation uncovered that a Chinese state company, CBMI Construction, was allegedly allowed to bring in about 242 workers to SA to work on a R1.2 billion construction project at cement supplier PPC’s slurry plant in North West in 2015.  According to Cosatu, the workers have been working in SA since October 2015 and are set to continue on the project until 2018. Cosatu stated:  “We find this totally unacceptable that for a country with over 9.2 million unemployed people, some companies are allowed to bring cheap labour from as far as Asia to work in this country.”

Health sector staff shortages

The Health and Other Service Personnel Trade Union of SA (Hospersa) this week urged national health minister Aaron Motsoaledi to address the critical shortage of staff in the public health system.  General Secretary Noel Desfontaines said there appeared to be a paradox where newly qualified doctors remained unemployed, while there was a critical staff shortage at public hospitals and clinics.  He referred to a press briefing last week where Motsoaledi claimed that there were 147 posts available for unemployed doctors.  “The Minister’s statement fails to sufficiently address the shortage of staff in public hospitals and clinics, and that more can be done to provide incentives to qualified but unemployed health professionals to work in rural areas,” said Desfontaines.  He added that Hospersa was appalled over the often dismal working conditions faced by its members in the public sector.

Zambian miners plead for special loans

Based on government policy to economically diversify miners into agriculture as a means to deal with job losses, the Mine Workers Union of Zambia (MUZ) has urged Government and cooperating partners to establish a special micro loan facility for miners, to make economic diversification in mining areas feasible. This diversification into other economic activity for miners is hampered by high interest rates charged by micro-lenders as well as financial institutions. The union said that due to economic changes, miners were ready to venture into agriculture provided they had land and capital. The union also urged government to facilitate training on how to manage various ventures such as agriculture and entrepreneurship  in order to make diversification a reality.

LEGAL, LEGISLATION AND COMPLIANCE

AngloGold and Sibanye and safety laws

Mere days after saying the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) was “not at war” with Sibanye Gold and AngloGold Ashanti (AGA), Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane accused the two companies for “refusing to comply with the mining laws of the country”.  AGA responded by, pointing to its safety record, while Sibanye declined any comment while a legal process it had initiated against Zwane and three safety officials was under way.

Sibanye is claiming R26.8m in recompense for losses incurred during a safety stoppage at the Kroondal platinum mine, which the company argues was disproportionate to the stipulations of the law.  AGA successfully overturned a safety stoppage at its Kopanang mine in the Labour Court in late 2016, getting a judgment that found the inspectorate had acted out of proportion with the act.  Zwane’s comments included a threat about finding other companies that would obey laws to mine.

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