DISPUTES AND INDUSTRIAL ACTION

Deadlock in passenger rail sector

The negotiations between two transport unions and Prasa have deadlocked.  The United National Transport Union (Untu), which is the majority union, reported that it remained with a 20% salary increase demand, whilst the employer was offering 3%.  The other union is Cosatu-affiliate the SA Transport and Allied Workers’ Union (Satawu).

Coal trucking companies

Last Wednesday members of the Coal Transportation Forum (CTF) drove an estimated 650 trucks into Pretoria in convoys and at low speeds, and brought traffic to a standstill.   The truckers brought with them a memorandum against the government’s signing of the Independent Power Producer Program, which they fear will lead to job losses.  The forum believes the multi-billion rand investments in renewable energy will force power stations to cut jobs, yet it added that it was not opposed to renewable energy.  The Forum’s Mary Phadi said:  “We are saying that it must not be parachuted to us and it must not close us out in business and must be a process that will be able to assist us not to go out of business…  Almost five power stations will be closing down and therefore we will be out of business and 30,000 employees working for Eskom will be out of jobs.” More than 50 independent truck companies have slammed the government’s independent power producer program.

Cosatu and Cape Town water crisis

Cosatu in the Western Cape plans intends to file an application for legal protest action with the Nedlac over what it calls the City of Cape Town’s failure to address the water crisis.  The labour federation.  In a statement, Cosatu said the city had failed to decrease water consumption and went on to state:  “The rich have more than enough money to pay fines and more expensive water bills.  The water shortages [are] going to lead to poor communities dying of thirst.  The rich will be able to buy water at the shops whilst poor people have no alternative water supply.”  Cosatu demanded that water use for pools, car washing and gardening be banned.  It asked that pool water be returned to dams, that desalination plants be set up and that the groundwater aquifer be accessed.  The City has been given until Monday to respond to the demands.

REMUNERATION

Decline in disposable salaries

According to the latest BankservAfrica Disposable Salary Index (BDSI) data for January 2017, the average real disposable salaries continue to decline.  “For the first time since the BDSI began in 2013, the average real disposable salaries declined for eight consecutive months in a row on a year-on-year basis, according to the latest January 2017 data,” said Dr. Caroline Belrose of BankservAfrica.  Take-home pay remained under pressure due to the tax bracket increments, low salary increases and medical insurance costs.  In nominal terms, average salaries increased by 3.9% in January 2017, but this was below the actual cost of living increase.  The salary decline of 2.6% represented the biggest fall over during the last year.  The average nominal disposable salary, according to the BDSI, was R13,752 for January 2017.  Meantime, BankservAfrica’s Private Pensions Index (BPPI) for January 2017 reflected a second consecutive month of annual declines in real terms.

Prasa’s Acting CEO

Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa) acting CEO Collins Letsoalo was dismissed following the disclosure of his unauthorised salary increase. He raised his salary by 350% from R1.3 million to R5.9 million, demanded a chauffeur-driven vehicle and a company cellphone with unlimited calls, similar to former CEO Lucky Montana.  Montana was fired in July 2015 following unfavorable findings of corruption and maladministration.

Cosatu formally accepts national minimum wage

Cosatu has agreed to sign the national minimum wage (NMW) deal, after it initially pulled out of collectively signing with other constituencies at the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac).  The trade union federation said during its post central executive committee meeting press briefing on Thursday that, although the agreed amount of R3,500, proposed by parties at Nedlac, fell short of its demand of R4,500, Cosatu office bearers have been given a mandate to sign the deal at Nedlac with the condition of there being a medium-term target to achieve a decent NMW within a stipulated timeframe.  An agreement must be reached that there will be annual increases to progressively achieve such a target.

AB InBev executive bonuses

Highlighting its tough management reputation, Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB InBev) has canned bonuses for most of its executive board because of the disappointing 2016 financial results.  The move is expected to affect swathes of executives in the group which, after last year’s $103bn acquisition of SABMiller, now controls just more than 25% of the global beer market.  South African executives will not be affected as the old SABMiller scheme will apply to them for the year.  The notable aspect of the financial results was the hefty 5% drop in beer volumes in the three months to end-December, which included the former SA Breweries’ figures.  Industry sources say it was the steepest decline in SA in more than 15 years.

JOB MARKET, JOB CREATION, RESTRUCTURING AND RETRENCHMENTS

Pan African Resources labour reductions

Pan African Resources (PAR) issued a Section 189 notice which could affect 2,000 employees at its Evander Gold Mine.  The mine’s shafts (8 and 7) were closed after an accident left one worker dead.  The planned retrenchments are seemingly due to ageing infrastructure, high operating costs and a low gold price.

State job cuts

Based on the budget speech by the Minister of Finance, the number of state officials in national departments will be cut in the next two years by roughly 4.27% (18,546 people) as a result of savings. About 434,111 officials currently work in the national departments.  Reductions in provincial and municipal budgets mean more pressure for jobs cuts in those areas.

DTI’s industrial finance resulted in 27,000 jobs

The Department of Trade and Industry approved more than R20-billion in industrial finance in 2017‚ which will create 27,000 new jobs.  This emerged from a media briefing on Tuesday by the economic and employment cluster of ministers (chaired jointly by Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti and Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor.)  The department’s incentive program incorporates the automotive‚ clothing‚ critical infrastructure‚ film and business process outsourcing sectors, as well as special economic zones and the manufacturing competitiveness enhancement programme.  The incentive expenditure of the department has been criticised by some for being a waste of money, but the World Bank recently noted in an update report on SA that investment tax incentives “have contained job destruction in industrial sectors” and “have encouraged additional investment in agriculture‚ construction‚ manufacturing‚ trade and other services”.

Atlantis manufacturing facility to create 200 jobs

Czech company, PEGAS Nonwovens, is planning a R1,3-billion fabrics manufacturing facility in Atlantis (Western Cape) which will create 200 jobs. The construction and installation of the new production line is scheduled to take around 30 months.

Johannesburg Mayor Mashaba and Jozi@Work employees

Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba says he doesn’t understand why Jozi@Work employees are still obviously mad at him as he has given the assurance that jobs won’t be lost.  On Wednesday, Johannesburg Metro Police escorted Pikitup workers who were cleaning the city center after people believed to be affiliated with the Jozi@Work programme trashed the area in protest over Mashaba’s cancellation of the program.  The workers were demanding that Mashaba reinstate the program, reporting that 8,000 jobs have been lost.  Mashaba insisted, however, that the program only benefited a few politically aligned to the ANC and that no one was going to lose their job. Samwu, who represents the majority of Johannesburg city workers, has distanced itself from the action.

Country Bird to close chicken abattoir in Mahikeng

Chicken producer Country Bird is to close one of its three abattoirs as the local industry struggles to compete with cheap European imports, which it argues amount to dumping.  The company indicated that it would close its facility in Mahikeng in North West in the absence of increased government protection against the imports.  CE Marthinus Stander said the company had notified employees last year about the planned closure.

Some four million people depend on SA’s motor industry

One of the findings of recent research is that about four million people in South Africa are dependent on the motor industry making it probably the largest formal industry employer.  The research into the economic and socio-economic impact of the industry was conducted by Econometrix for the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of SA (Naamsa).  The report highlighted the vital and enormous contribution the industry has made to SA’s economy.  In 2015, the industry employed 443,219 people directly in the formal and informal sector in 2015, but that did not take into account the large number of jobs created in industries that were dependent on the automotive industry.  The impact model showed that the industry supported more than 925,000 employees in the formal economy, which could be multiplied by four to take account of all the dependents supported by the industry.  In 2015, it contributed an estimated R55.9 billion or 3% of total compensation of employees.

Retention of teacher bursary scheme

The SA Cabinet has granted the Department of Basic Education (DBE) approval to retain the Funza Lushaka Bursary Programme, which is meant to attract young people to teaching by offering bursary-for-work agreements.  However, it has been criticised for being inefficient and not yielding the desired results since teacher shortages persist.  Speaking at a post-Cabinet media briefing on Thursday, Minister in the Presidency, Jeff Radebe, said Cabinet had approved the report on the implementation evaluation of the programme, as well as the management response on improvement from the department.  Radebe noted that the programme had been established to increase the supply of competent teachers specialising in priority areas (maths and science) and indicated that the DBE would consider its expansion and supplementation.  The programme aims to fund 25% of students enrolled at public higher education institutions for recognised initial teacher education programmes.

LEGAL, LEGISLATION AND COMPLIANCE


NUM to pay damages to Cape Town

The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) has agreed to pay Good Hope Construction (GHC) R1.25-million for damage its members caused during protests in Cape Town in 2015.  Scenes of burning cars and damaged equipment and claims of kidnapping, stabbing and intimidation dominated headlines when more than 200 NUM members went on the rampage at building sites, demanding protective clothing and payment according to skills.  GHC instituted a R15-million damages claim against the union.  The matter was set down for argument in the Labour Court last Monday, when the negotiated settlement was made an order of the court.

Spar and undocumented migrants

Retailer Spar has denied knowingly hiring undocumented migrants, as alleged by the Department of Home Affairs (DHA). Last week Home Affairs Minister, Malusi Gigaba vowed to take action against businesses employing undocumented migrants and said that authorities had already arrested 63 migrants working at three Spar branches.  Spar store managers at the retailer’s Montana, Doornpoort and Zambezi outlets will apparently be charged.  Spar spokeswoman, Stephanie Leclercq confirmed the arrest of 63 staff members.  “These people have been detained, but more than 40 have returned to work as they have been released after showing their valid documentation to the authorities,” she said.  The rest of them have documentation, but it appears to be false.  Every store in the Spar chain manages its own staff appointments.

EMPLOYEE BENEFITS

Western Cape furniture workers and provident surplus funds

About 27,000 former workers in the Western Cape furniture industry are closer to getting paid their long awaited money from the industry’s provident fund, through the Western Cape Surplus Apportionment Scheme.  Although employees were originally paid their monies due to them, there developed a surplus in the fund.  After a protracted procedural process, the Financial Services Board approved the fund’s surplus payment scheme on 16 February 2017.

UNION ISSUES

Teacher body and principal found guilty of sexual harassment 

South Africa’s professional body for teachers has failed to report a headmaster who was fired for sexually harassing three schoolgirls and then beating them for rejecting his advances.  This was claimed by insiders within the SA Council for Educators (Sace). The reason given is because his lover commanded the investigation against him.  The principal was found guilty of misconduct late last year by the Eastern Cape education department and it was recommended that he be dismissed.  Last month, he appealed that decision to education MEC Mandla Makupula and lost.  But it has emerged that he was found not guilty by Sace, where his former lover and mother of his child worked. While under investigation, the principal became involved with the Sace official and their child was born in 2015.

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