End of centralised collective bargaining in coal industry

The Chamber of Mines had a centralized bargaining structure for some of the coal producers – our own assessment is that less than half of coal industry employers were involved with large producers such as Sasol and South32 not part of the arrangement. This arrangement spanned several decades and involved the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), Solidarity and the United Association of South Africa (UASA) and mining employers such as Anglo, Glencore and Exxaro.

The Chamber has gave notice to the unions that it want to end this arrangement (it stated that it did not have any mandate from its members to bargain on their behalf). This would effectively amount to decentralized collective bargaining at mine or company level. In response the NUM declared that it would declare a dispute and refer the matter to the CCMA. Collective bargaining at the Chamber for coal mines represented by the Chamber would have commenced in May/June 2017 with an implementation date of 1 July 2017.

Randgold Resources dispute in Cote d’Ivoire

AN illegal sit-in at the premises of Randgold Resources’ Tongon mine in Côte d’Ivoire which started on 26 January 2017 and which related to demands for an annual ex gratia payment, had ended following a settlement, the details of which were not disclosed. The sit-in did not have the support of the central or local government, nor of the union. The ex gratia demand means that the mine is not legally obliged to make any payment, but that it is being requested by employees as a largesse, or favour.

TVET Colleges

The SA Further Education and Training Student Association (Safetsa) has provisionally called off its nationwide shutdown of the 265 Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) campuses.  Safetsa general secretary Sibusiso Ntishibongo said they met Nzimande and his team a week ago and the department committed to addressing the problems highlighted by the association.  Ntishibongo said they would re-evaluate the situation after 14 days.


Road passenger sector and Numsa

After its initial demand for a 30% hike in salaries, the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) is not impressed with the 4% wage increase being proposed by employers in the road passenger sector as an opening offer.  According to a Numsa statement, the employers represented by the SA Bus Employer’s Association (Sabea) and the Commuter Bus Employer’s Organisation (Cobeo), have not engaged on the other demands by the union.

The demands proposed by Numsa include a 30% wage increase across the board, a basic salary of R15,000, a R1,500 housing allowance for eligible employees along with a R1,200 sleeping (!?) allowance.

Numsa and minimum wage

Irvin Jim, metalworker union Numsa’s General Secretary, was highly critical of Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa as a person as well as the R3,500 per month minimum wage proposed by him. Speaking at a shop steward council meeting held in Johannesburg over the weekend, Jim said “to make matters worse” Ramaphosa is also imposing limitations on the right to strike, which include balloting before a strike and compulsory arbitration to end strikes.

Ramaphosa made the proposal for a minimum wage in November last year at a media conference held at the offices of the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac).

He argued that a minimum wage will be a radical shift to address wage inequality in South Africa, as an estimate of between 6 million and 7 million people in South Africa are earning less than R3 500 and in many ways a minimum wage will lift as many as those out of poverty.

Unisa and Nehawu

The registration of students at the University of SA (Unisa) can re-commence after a salary agreement was signed with the National Education and Health Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu).  The workers accepted the four categories of increases put forward by Unisa’s management.  The categories ranged from a 5% increase for the highest-paid individuals to an 8% increase for the lowest-paid workers. Nehawu represents 3,000 of Unisa’s 6,000 permanent staff.

Decline in real income

After taking inflation into account, the average South African earned 1.5% less in December than in the same month in 2015.  December’s average monthly pay after taxes and other deductions was R14,102 and the median was R10,397, according to the BankservAfrica Disposable Salary Index (BDSI) released last Tuesday.  Ignoring inflation, South Africans on average received 5.1% more in December than the same month the previous year.  December was the seventh consecutive month that salaries have fallen year-on-year-in real terms.  Like salaries, private pensions showed real-term decline (1.7%) year-on-year in December.

Changes to CPI basket

Statistics SA announced changes in the basket of goods and services used in the calculation of the consumer price index (CPI).  The changes were part of the reweighting and rebasing exercise that Stats SA conducts every four years.  The outcome provides a window on the changing spending habits of South Africans.  Marmite is out and so are teapots, postage stamps, tennis balls and board games.  But frozen pizzas are now in, as are coffee mugs, soccer balls and video games.  The stand-out changes are that food has a much larger weight in the new CPI basket than it did in the old one, while transport has a smaller one.  Food and fuel prices tend to be big drivers of inflation trends from month to month.


Ekurhuleni metro increases labour

The Ekurhuleni Metro Police Department (EMPD) has strengthened its manpower by 729 new metro officials who will assist with traffic flow, crime prevention and the application of municipal ordinances.  Until December these officials were part of the EMPD peace corps as part of a skills training initiative implemented by former mayor Mondli Gungubele.


Mechanisation and employment

The World Economic Forum ranks SA as the second-most difficult country to operate in when it comes to labour relations, which drives the move to mechanise in an economy suffering chronic unemployment.  Agriculture presents a particularly bleak picture.  “Over the past 20 years half a million jobs have been lost in [the sector],” says Jim Rankin, secretary of the SA Agricultural Machinery Association.  Mechanisation has been especially aggressive in maize and wheat farming and the pace of mechanisation is not slowing.  Deciduous fruit remains the only major agricultural sector still largely dependent on labour.  When it comes to job shedding the mining industry ranks a close second to agriculture, with mechanisation only in part to blame.  Manufacturing has not suffered the same huge job losses, but is far from a cheering picture.  The perspective of Pioneer Food Group CEO Phil Roux is appropriate:  “Though mechanisation and automation are expensive, the return on investment is always good.”

Chicken industry

As was reported last week, a new business model at RCL Foods’ Rainbow Chicken plant in Hammarsdale will came into effect on 1 February 2017 in terms of which the facility will reduce the two-shift system to a single one, thereby reducing employees by 1,350 out of a staff complement of 2,700.  Most of the retrenched workers were laid off with about 200 being placed at other facilities.

The Department of Trade and Industry’s (DTI’s) action task team is in the process of identifying several interventions to resolve the current crisis surrounding chicken dumping in SA’s poultry market whilst the Food and Allied Workers Union (Fawu) and the SA Poultry Association this week delivered a memorandum of protest to the European Union’s (EU’s) offices in Pretoria over the claimed dumping of chicken in SA.

Meanwhile EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmström indicated that the “real problem” in the SA chicken industry was not EU imports but structural problems affecting its competitiveness, saying the local industry was “modern, efficient and well able to compete effectively against fair competition.

Similarly David Wolpert, CEO of the Association of Meat Importers and Exporters of SA (Amiesa), SA’s beleaguered poultry industry is not under threat.  Wolpert pointed out that imports were only around 14% of the total consumption nationally.  In his view, the problem facing local producers related to the high cost of feed, as well as a complete lack of an export programme.  It is expected that better-than-anticipated rains and a drop in soya bean and maize prices will give producers some respite this year.

Jozi@work jobs initiative ended

Johannesburg Mayor Herman Mashaba last week cancelled the City’s R1-billion co-production programme Jozi@Work, which was spearheaded by the previous administration, saying it was littered with patronage.  Jozi@Work, a programme designed to provide short-term work opportunities by allowing communities to partner with the city in the delivery of municipal services in their neighbourhoods, was launched in September 2014.  Mashaba said he had been struck by how communities despised the unfairness of the city’s “vanity projects”.  He claimed that communities had been complaining that the work opportunities were handed out on the basis of membership of the previous governing party.  The ANC however indicated that it is a sad day with a negative impact on 8‚000 workers and 112 cooperatives/local companies in Johannesburg.

Centralisation at Joburg metro

Johannesburg executive mayor Herman Mashaba is planning to centralise the city’s agencies under the metro’s authority, in an apparent about-turn from promise in the run up to the 2016 local government elections.  In a statement last Sunday, Mashaba pledged R18m from the salaries of non-executive board members alone.  He gave the assurance that no jobs would be lost in the proposed restructuring.  Joburg owns 12 entities, including City Power, Joburg Water and Pikitup.  The process of reintegration is expected to take 18 months to finalise.

OneLogix cuts 50 jobs

OneLogix, the listed niche logistics provider, has had to retrench about 50 employees in its auto logistics businesses because of the downturn in new vehicle sales.  The retrenchments were in the group’s Vehicle Delivery Services (VDS) and Commercial Vehicle Delivery Services (CVDS) businesses and involved employees right across the spectrum, from top management down to junior staff.

AngloGold and unions working to mitigate job losses

AngloGold Ashanti (AGA) and trade unions are in discussions on a possible arrangement that would help avert the retrenchment of more than 800 employees.  AGA spokesperson Chris Nthite said they met with unions – the NUM, Amcu, Solidarity and Uasa – but had not yet finalised the talks or reached agreement on substantive issues.  The company recently announce a plan to retrench 849 workers, but the parties agreed to seek ways to prevent the retrenchments completely.


Mines: Unclaimed Benefits

The Mines 1970 Unclaimed Benefits Preservation Pension and Provident Funds want to distribute the entire fund, totalling R600 million, to ex-mineworkers in SA, Mozambique, Lesotho, Swaziland, Malawi, Botswana and Zimbabwe by 2020.  Yet, this is said to be a fraction of the billions of rands that different pension funds are understood to owe ex-miners.  The 1970 Funds comprise 11,712 pension fund beneficiaries and 57,450 provident fund beneficiaries, located in different southern African countries.  “We have identified 73 percent of the pension fund beneficiaries and, families of the deceased, and 60 percent of provident fund beneficiaries and families,” said Sue Fritz, chairperson of the funds on Monday.  She said the increased success rate was due to their new tracing initiatives.  In the past 25 months, the funds have paid more than R60 million in unclaimed benefits to beneficiaries.

Company director to be charged with theft of pension contributions

A Sea Point security company director is to be charged with theft, over allegations he pilfered the pension fund contributions of his security officers.  The company is contracted by various ratepayers associations operating within Bantry Bay and Sea Point.  The chairperson of a body corporate based in Sea Point discovered the “theft” after a widow of a security officer was not paid any benefits.


Wits University : Sexual misconduct

The University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) has confirmed that a Professor has been dismissed after found guilty of sexual misconduct.  Three female colleagues laid complaints of sexual harassment with the university’s Gender Equity Office late last year.  An independent investigation found the man guilty in respect of the three complainants and concluded the misconduct warranted dismissal.


Plight of mining communities

The Bench Marks Foundation (BMF) said on Thursday the plight of a community near Sishen Iron Ore mine in the Northern Cape highlighted the need to properly compensate people whose lives were impacted by mining.  John Capel of BMF was responding to reports about 25 families who were refusing to leave the town of Dingleton,

Northern Cape, to make way for mining by Kumba Iron Ore stating that the compensation was insuffiecient. Another community whose woes have recently been in the spotlight is that of the defunct Blyvooruitzicht Gold Mine near Carletonville.  A report released last week revealed that the 6,000 people of the village were existing on the edge of the mine in extreme poverty.


Lily Mine remembrance service postponed

The remembrance service to commemorate the first anniversary of the accident at Vantage Goldfields’ Lily Mine near Barberton has been postponed.  Three miners have been trapped in the mine since the container in which they were working fell into a massive sinkhole which formed on 5 February last year.  Business rescue practitioner Rob Devereux said the ceremony had been arranged two weeks ago, but in the course of last week “we received indications from the police that unrest has been planned to disrupt the service.”  He indicated that at a meeting held on Thursday and attended by the police‚ the unions and the affected families‚ it was agreed that it would be irresponsible to continue with the ceremony in light of a threat of violence.  Cosatu had earlier called for a boycott of the planned ceremony‚ describing it as a futile gesture that was morally obscene.

Claassen Inquiry report and Marikana

Parliament’s police portfolio committee is still deciding how to handle the Claassen Board of Inquiry’s report into the fitness of suspended police commissioner Riah Phiyega to hold office.  The committee had scheduled a meeting for Thursday to discuss referring the report to the Presidency, chairperson Francois Beukman indicated, but would now take legal advice on how to deal with the document as it was still classified as confidential.  Beukman confirmed that the committee would continue monitoring the implementation of the Farlam Commission of Inquiry’s recommendations on public order policing, and the Independent Police Investigative Directorate’s ongoing probe into the August 2012 Marikana shootings.



The SA Transport and Allied Workers’ Union (Satawu) is in crisis with some members accusing general secretary Zenzo Mahlangu of running the union as if it was his own business.  Some Satawu delegates from the Western and Eastern Cape said they were locked out of special central executive committee (CEC) meeting held in Johannesburg last week because they came from five provinces facing disbandment for differing with Mahlangu on a number of issues.  But Mahlangu said they were mistaken because the CEC did not have powers to remove provincial leaders and that issues in respect of provincial leadership should be dealt with at provincial level.  For some, the present infighting and divisive leadership battles are

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