DISPUTES AND INDUSTRIAL ACTIONS

MEIBC Administration and Dispute Levy Agreement

The financial crises of the Metals and Engineering Industries Bargaining Council (MEIBC) deepened with the ruling of the Labour Court that the Minister of Labour may not proceed with the Gazettal and Extension of this Agreement to non-parties on the grounds that the “vote taken at the Council did not meet the majoritarian requirements contained in the Labour Relations Act”.

In June 2016 the extension to non-parties of the present Administration and Dispute Levy Agreement at the MEIBC expired. That meant that it no longer applied to companies which are not members of one of the Employer Associations affiliated to SEIFSA and employees who are not members of one of the five trade unions (NUMSA, MEWUSA, SAEWA, UASA and CEPPWAWU – these being the signatories to the Agreement). It further meant that the MEIBC could no longer collect levies from these employers and employees.

In August 2016 the Bargaining Council applied to the Department of Labour for a delay/extension of this Agreement to non-parties for a further 12-month period. This application was supported by the SEIFSA Employer Associations and the Trade unions, but it was opposed by employers’ organisations NEASA and PCASA.

Negotiations on securing the future of the Bargaining Council are still continuing and the SEIFSA Employer Associations persist in their commitment to finding a sustainable solution which wil be satisfactory to all Parties in securing the future of the Bargaining Council.

In the interim, the current Administration and Dispute Levy structure remains binding on companies which are members of one of the Employer Associations affiliated to SEIFSA and employees who are members of one of the trade unions which are signatories to the Agreement. This arrangement remains in force and effect until 31 March 2020.

Strike Department of Social Development

After wage negotiations apparently collapsed last Sunday, about 6,000 National Education Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) members employed by the Department of Social Development (DSD) went on strike across the country last Monday.  The union demands include the placement of assistant community development practitioners on the “correct salary” level, the occupational specific allowance for social service professionals and occupations, the introduction of a rural allowance, the absorption of unemployed social workers on a permanent basis, etc.

According to a union official, members of the National Education Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) at the SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) are not on strike and have no immediate plans to do so.  The union’s general secretary Bereng Shoke said that Sassa staffers had grievances, but no dispute had been declared and no notice of a strike had been issued.

Strikers dismissed at hardboard manufacturer Evowood in Estcourt

Hardboard manufacturer Evowood (formerly Masonite) has dismissed 434 workers at its Estcourt mill who participated in a 3-week illegal strike costing the Company R2-m per day. This follows a Labour Court order preventing employees from continuing with their strike action. The strike related to a business turnaround plan signed with the workforce in November 2016, which specified a reduction of 12% in every employee’s salary from 1 February 2017.  The agreement also specified that there would be no retrenchments and was aimed at keeping all 733 jobs at the company.  Moreover it provided for a minimum of 7% wage increase from July 2017.  However‚ a faction within the workforce apparently defaulted on the agreement‚ leading to the illegal strike.

Fedusa warns of nationwide Prasa strike over double digit wage demand

The Federation of Unions of SA (Fedusa) warned last week of a looming wage strike at the embattled Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa).  This could take place if the CCMA fails to resolve a wage dispute that has been referred to it by the United National Transport Union (Untu).  In a statement, Fedusa said it “fully supports Untu’s decision to refer the dispute to the CCMA for conciliation after the latter’s members rejected Prasa’s wage offer increase from 3 percent to 4.5 percent on condition that Untu lowers its demands from 20 percent to 12 percent.”  Untu is also demanding increases in members’ medical aid, night shift, book-off and standby allowances with effect from 1 April.

Numsa striking at Road Accident Fund

National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) said that its members at the Road Accident Fund (RAF) are striking for higher wages and to protest the agency’s “shambolic management”.  The RAF claimed that less than 150 employees were picketing and that it could not accede to demands from Numsa that it should adopt “unverified, nebulous, proposed salary scales” and that despite severe financial pressures, it was continuing to remunerate employees fairly.  Numsa claims to represent 1,500 of the RAF’s 2,863 staff.

REMUNERATION

Anglo American introduces reward limits

Anglo American has delivered on its promise and pared back the scope for its mining executives to be disproportionately rewarded as a consequence of swelling commodity prices and advantageous exchange-rate activities.  The task to limit rewards was not as much as some shareholders commanded at the 2016 annual general meeting, nonetheless it marked an effort to ensure that executives do not score large remuneration payouts for developments beyond their control.  In particular, it should help ensure that executives do not pocket hefty bonuses in times of negative returns.  The mining group’s remuneration committee is also trying to limit the profit accumulating to executives when they are awarded large tranches of shares during a slump in the share price.  After the shareholder revolt in 2016, when a record 41% of shareholders voted against the remuneration policy, CEO Mark Cutifani promised to heed their concerns.

PetroSA’s remuneration booms amidst losses

Last Tuesday, it was suggested in Parliament that the entire PetroSA board should be dismissed in the light of R17.3 million in bonuses which have been paid out to executives, despite the fact that the state-owned oil company have suffered a R14.5 billion impairment in the 2014/15 financial year.  Another impairment around R1.1 billion is expected this financial year.  Andrew Dippenaar, one of the executives largely responsible for the Ikhwezi project, an unsuccessful attempt to prolong the life of the Mossgas plant by drilling new wells, received a bonus of R2.3 million.  The wells only produced 10% of the gas expected.  While Dippenaar was demoted, no further action was taken against him and the then CEO, Nosizwe Nokwe-Macamo and CFO, Lindiwe Mthimunye-Bakoro.  The CEO and CFO were later given golden handshakes for leaving the company.

JOB MARKET, JOB CREATION, RESTRUCTURING AND RETRENCHMENTS

Protest at Pretoria Casino

Sun International’s Time Square Casino and Hotel at Menlyn Maine is set to open on 1 April 2017.  The new development was struck by a huge labour protest on Tuesday morning, when 500 job seekers from the neighboring area stormed the basement parking challenging that jobs be given to residents of Pretoria. They became violent, hurling bricks and other objects as they demanded to access the construction site.  Police had to be called in to maintain peace and order.

Pan African Resources restructuring

Pan African Resources (Panaf) confirmed up to 976 employees at its Evander Gold Mines could be retrenched after the firm served a Section 189 notice that enables it to restructure the operation. This follows discussions with the National Union of Mineworkers (Num) regarding a zero-basing of labour and costs to arrive at a sustainable operation.

The NUM announced earlier that a voluntary separation package and redeployment to other mines reduced the affected number of employees from 2,400 to a possible 976. This represented roughly 30% of Evander Mines employees, which Panaf said would cost R54m in restructuring payments.

Panaf’s Evander Gold Mines, in Mpumalanga, have not been making profits for seven months, partly owing to a strengthening in the rand against the dollar.

Uneven progress with insourcing at Western Cape universities

Only one university in the Western Cape has brought all workers onto its payroll, despite all four universities beginning their debates on “insourcing” in 2015. The outsourcing of cleaners, catering staff, security guards, gardeners and others resulted in workers’ remuneration being lower than if they were employed directly by universities and they also did not receive various other benefits.  Since the protests to end outsourcing, only the University of Cape Town (UCT) has brought all outsourced workers onto the university staff.  Other universities are still discussing the insourcing of some workers, more than a year since initial discussions on insourcing began.  At some universities, outsourced workers have been dismissed for their alleged involvement in student protests.

Eskom and the phasing out of coal power stations

Eskom is planning to meet with trade unions this coming week to discuss the planned phasing out of five coal power stations in Mpumalanga.  Eskom will be phasing out the Grootvlei, Kriel, Camden, Hendrina and Komati power stations in Mpumalanga over the next five years, which spokesperson Khulu Phasiwe said was necessary to accommodate independent renewable power producers.  Some of the coal power stations employ up to 1,000 people, but Eskom indicated that they would make certain that they mitigate against thousands of job losses.

Western Cape drought and job losses

The Western Cape standing committee on economic opportunities, agriculture and tourism has been told that thousands of jobs would have to be shed in the agriculture industry in the province if the devastating water crisis continued.  Despite interventions by all three spheres of the government, the looming job losses would be a further blow to the drought-stricken sector that had been under a worsening dry spell for the past two years.  The potential decrease in employment opportunities, which could affect as many as 17,000 jobs, came as farmers were asked to cut their water usage by at least 30% in order to increase quantities available for residential use.  The Western Cape’s head of agriculture, Joyene Isaacs confirmed the figure during a committee meeting this week.  Farmers in the West Coast and Central Karoo districts have been hardest hit.

Big private sector, foreign direct investment will be boost for SA jobs

On Thursday, Minister in the Presidency, Jeff Radebe advised of government’s projection that South Africa would receive private sector investment of R956m in the near future.  Addressing the media following a Cabinet meeting on Wednesday, he said 1,053 jobs were expected to be established.  In addition, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) attracted R4bn in private sector investment which will have the potential to save and create more than 3,600 jobs in the last quarter of 2017.  According to Radebe, South Africa remains a “preferred investment destination” through foreign direct investment (FDI).  Government expects potential FDI to the value of R4.5bn – particularly in the energy and chemicals sector.  “This will bring the total potential FDI to R34.9bn,” Radebe indicated.

SABC job losses

The SA Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) said it is facing the wrath of the unions after it said that it would have to retrench staff because of a cash crunch.  The public broadcaster conceded it was in financial trouble, that many projects were on hold and that jobs cuts were imminent.  The statement caused angry reaction from unions.  The SABC lost R551 million in the 2014 financial year.  This was followed by a loss of R395m in 2015, and R411m last year.

Focus on poultry crisis, then on transformation

The Food and Allied Workers Union (Fawu) called on government to focus on the crisis facing SA’s poultry industry, rather than on its transformation.  Briefing Parliament’s agriculture portfolio committee on the challenges facing the local poultry industry, the union’s general secretary, Katishi Masemola, said:  “Transformation should not be secondary, but we have a crisis on our hands.  With every passing [day], Rainbow Chicken is losing R1 million [per day], and people are losing their jobs.”  He told the committee that unfair trade, namely the EU’s ‘dumping’ of large volumes of chicken in the country, was responsible for the challenges currently facing the industry.  According to Masemola, thousands of people have already lost their jobs, and more will follow.  He went on to say:  “If we are going to be side-tracked by the talk of transformation, there might not be a chicken industry to talk about by the time it [transformation] is finished.”

LEGAL, LEGISLATION AND COMPLIANCE

Civil claims worth over R1bn could arise from Marikana

The state is facing claims amounting to more than R1 billion arising out of the Marikana massacre in 2012, when 34 miners lost their lives after police opened fire on protesting strikers near Lonmin’s Rustenburg mine.  On Wednesday the SA Police Service (SAPS) and the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) updated Parliament’s police portfolio committee on progress in implementing the recommendations of the Farlam Commission of Inquiry into the tragedy.  The police’s Nashee Sewpersadh said the total amount of civil claims against the government was just over R1.1 billion.  He indicated that the government’s approach to this litigation was aimed at reaching settlements of the claims as quickly as possible.  Injured mineworkers and families of those who died are suing the government for loss of support, unlawful arrest and detention and personal injury.  According to Sewpersadh, they were waiting for attorneys to respond to offers to settle loss of support claims.

577,000 children involved in child labour in SA in 2015

Statistics SA has revealed that of the 11.2 million South African children aged between 7 and 17‚ a shocking 577,000 were involved in child labour activities in 2015.  Yet, this was down from the 779,000 children involved in these activities in 2010 according to the Survey of Activities of Young People issued by Stats SA.  The report defined child labour as ‘an involvement in a number of indicators‚ which included doing work prohibited by the Basic Conditions of Employment Act‚ such as working for a wage‚ salary or any payment in kind’.  The indicators also included children working for more hours per week at home at tasks such as fetching water and firewood‚ and school-related work unrelated to study.  Another indicator was where a child was doing work that interfered with schooling and where a child was absent from school because of work-related activities.  A further indicator was a child doing hazardous work such as working with explosives and carrying heavy loads.

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