MODERNISATION AND LABOUR INNOVATION

BHP Billiton targets female employment

BHP Billiton is taking diversity lessons from banks and law enforcement to achieve a gender-balanced workforce by 2025 and to promote women into top executive roles.  The miner has held talks with companies, including Australia & New Zealand Banking Group, on policies to boost female recruitment and retention, according to BHP chief of staff and head of geoscience Laura Tyler.  BHP, which in October announced its target for gender balance, sees a clear commercial case for changing its workforce.  Tyler noted:  “The sites that are most diverse, and where people say they are most able to speak up and feel inclusive, are delivering our strongest results and our better safety results.”  

BHP, where women account for less than a quarter of senior managers, is seeking to prepare a larger pipeline of female staff with the skills and experience necessary to be top executives.  It is seeing some progress in areas including its finance and legal teams.  To achieve gender balance among about 26,827 direct employees, BHP will need to overturn meager recent progress in the mining sector.  Women accounted for 17.6% of Melbourne-based BHP’s employees in the 12 months to June 2016.  That compares with 17% in 2012.

DISPUTES AND INDUSTRIAL ACTION

Amcu’s Mathunjwa and Harmony’s Kusasalethu mine strike

Joseph Mathunjwa, president of the Association of Mineworkers & Construction Union (Amcu), personally intervened in the unprotected strike at Harmony Gold’s Kusasalethu mine that ended on Thursday morning. Amcu members were heavily represented in the action, which was driven by the local branch of Amcu. Mathunjwa said he would not condone unprotected strike action and ordered branch members back to work. Harmony announced on Thursday that an agreement was reached. In terms of the agreement, the company will press ahead with disciplinary action against employees who staged an underground sit-in in January, as well as those engaged in the latest strike action. The actual lost production could be as much as 15 days partly also due to striking employees only trickling back to work on Thursday.

TUT and Unisa campuses will shut over insourcing

Some of the universities in Tshwane are facing uncertain times again, with outsourced workers reigniting a struggle over insourcing that started in 2015.  The workers have declared to shut down the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) and the University of SA (Unisa) if outsourced workers are not insourced.  On Monday, Unisa managed to obtain an interdict against security guards who had embarked on strike action.  At TUT, security workers embarked on a peaceful protest on Friday at the main campus in Pretoria West.  Japhta Mokoena of the General Industries Workers Union of SA claimed that agreements made following the #OutsourcingMustFall protests in February last year had not been fulfilled by the university.  The universities have been warned that if they not manage to insource the 800 security workers, the members will shut down campuses.

Pick n Pay bakers’ strike

The protected strike by workers who produce baked goods for Pick n Pay which started on 28 February 2017 seemingly ended last Monday. The strike began in protest at unfair working conditions, including long working hours, salary disputes, and unpaid overtime.  The outcome of the talks to resolve the strike resulted in Assist Bakeries committing to pay all employees at least R3,500 a month and ensuring that no shifts exceed eight hours. The 58 workers involved in the strike are all employed at a facility housing independent bakery operations located in Isando on the East Rand.

Social development strikers in Gauteng assault non-strikers at their homes

A number of non-striking employees of the Gauteng Department of Social Development (DSD) have been seriously injured, with one of them admitted to intensive care, after they were assaulted at their homes by strikers probably belonging to the National Education Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu).  A nationwide strike by about 6,000 social workers, care givers and nurses has been ongoing since 13 March.  No end is in sight, notwithstanding a court interdict against the strikers.  Amongst other things, strikers are demanding salary increases of 14%.

In the meantime there are also reports that the ongoing strike is delaying justice for many awaiting-trial prisoners and families of the victims of crime due to court cases requiring reports by social workers having had to be adjourned, some for more than two months.

REMUNERATION

Buffalo City Metro workers to receive back pay

Buffalo City Metro (BCM) has allocated close to half a billion rands for salary increments and back pay for thousands of its employees in the current financial year.  On Wednesday the council approved the standardisation of salaries in the metro following prolonged negotiations with the SA Municipal Workers’ Union (Samwu) and the Independent Municipal and Allied Trade Union (Imatu).  Although the R456-million commitment is less than initially demanded, workers expressed contentment over the agreement.  Seemingly, R3,000 will be paid to each BCM employee a month as an ongoing commitment from 1 July to 30 June next year.

This will cost the metro R195-million for the financial year.  The amount will increase annually and a commitment of R2,000 from 1 March to 30 June this year will also be paid to each employee, amounting to R44-million.  Back pay will amount to a once-off payment of R40,000 to each employee who joined BCM before 2014.  Those who joined after 2014 will receive back pay based on the number of years served.

JOB MARKET, JOB CREATION, RESTRUCTURING AND RETRENCHMENTS

SA saw small rise in job numbers year-on-year in December

Statistics SA indicated in its latest Quarterly Employment Survey (QES) that overall employment across non-agricultural businesses, such as factories, offices and stores, as well as national, provincial and local government entities increased by 90,000, or 0.9%, year-on-year between December 2016 and December 2015.  Yet, the mining sector shed 4,000 employees over that period, On a quarterly basis, employment grew by 18,000 jobs – from 9,672,000 in September to 9,690,000 in December 2016.  Employment increases over the full year period occurred in trade (2.8%), business services (0.7%), construction (2.4%), manufacturing (0.5%) and community services (0.6%).  Besides the mining and quarrying industry, a decrease in employment was recorded in the transport sector (-3.2%).  The latest QES also showed that gross earnings paid to employees increased by R37.8bn (6.6%) in the period December 2015 to December 2016.

DTI approves R4.9bn incentives for clothing, textile sector

Speaking in Durban this week at the Clothing Manufacturing Industry Sector Summit, Trade and Industry Minister Dr Rob Davies said that SA’s clothing and textile sector has saved thousands of jobs with the assistance of the Department of Trade and Industry’s (DTI’s) production incentives programmes.  The DTI approved R4.9-billion in incentives, with more than R3.1-billion disbursed in the last financial year. Throughout the sector, a number of companies that qualified and drew from both programmes were able to save 81,252 jobs, while an additional 9,672 jobs were created. 

Higher local content in SA-made vehicles could create 49,000 jobs

Automotive Masterplan lead and B&M Analysts chairperson Dr Justin Barnes said at the National Association of Automotive Component and Allied Manufacturers of SA (Naacam) show held in Durban this week that achieving 60% local content on vehicles assembled in SA will have a significant impact on the economy, including the creation of 49,000 new jobs and the addition of R68-billion to the gross domestic product.  He indicated that the development of an Automotive Masterplan was at an “advanced stage of development” and that more concrete details would be shared over the coming weeks.  The Automotive Masterplan is set to replace government’s current automotive industry support programme, the Automotive Production and Development Programme (APDP), when it comes to an end in 2020.  Naacam president Dave Coffey stated:  “Given the fact that approximately triple the number of jobs are created in component manufacturing than in vehicle assembly, there is commitment across the board to deepen levels of local content.  This responsibility falls as much with tier one component manufacturers as it does with vehicle manufacturers.”

DiamondCorp to retrench all employees

DiamondCorp is to retrench all employees at its Lace diamond mine near Kroonstad.  On Monday the diamond miner, which is in business rescue, said that discussions under the auspices of the CCMA between the Association of Mineworkers & Construction Union (Amcu) and the business rescue practitioner have ended without a settlement being reached on a collective agreement to allow care and maintenance to commence. A consequence of the retrenchment would be that previous bail-out finance arranged with the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) in terms of the business rescue procedure would no longer be available.  Thus, unless there is an accelerated plan and route for funding in place which can be completed by mid-May 2017, then it is likely that the group would need to be placed into administration.

1,900 jobs lost in vehicle manufacturing industry

A total of 1,900 jobs were lost in the vehicle manufacturing industry in the fourth quarter of 2016.  This represented a decline of 6% in total employment in the industry to 29,489 jobs on 31 December from 31,389 jobs at the end of the third quarter.  Nico Vermeulen of the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of SA (Naamsa) said employment levels in the fourth quarter declined fairly substantially, principally because of the lay-off of temporary workers at three major industry plants.  This followed stable industry employment over the past four years.  The plants were not identified.  Total new vehicle sales declined by 11.4% last year, however barring unforeseen political events and instability, new vehicle sales this year could improve modestly in volume terms.

UJ insourcing process concludes

The insourcing process at the University of Johannesburg (UJ) has been successfully concluded and the last cohort of 640 cleaning staff became new UJ employees as they commenced work on Saturday.  Since the process started in 2015, the university has fast-tracked the insourcing of outsourced workers, with improved working conditions and benefits extended to their children. The university set a target to finalise the insourcing of all concerned workers by the end of June 2017.

Insourcing at UWC unaffordable

Although the University of the Western Cape (UWC) has said it cannot afford insourcing, dismissed security guards say they will not give up their fight to be reinstated.  On 13 January, service provider Securitas dismissed the 144 workers on charges of being absent from work without permission, “hostage” taking and “assault and robbery”.  The workers have admitted to being absent from work, but said they were forced to leave as students had shut down the university in October 2016.  An application for their reinstatement has been referred to the CCMA. University spokesperson Luthando Tyhalibongo specified that the Council had reviewed its financials and found that insourcing at UWC was unaffordable.  He said the Council has already supplemented the income of outsourced gardeners, cleaning and security staff by R2,000 a month.  The University has offered to assist Securitas with mediation should they decide to take up the offer.

Closure of Glencoe abattoir

Fifty-four workers have been retrenched following the announcement of the closure of the Glencoe abattoir.  The facility will close down on 13 April.  It is understood that consultative meetings have been held with the workers and unions (Food and Allied Workers Union – FAWU) and that staff will receive benefits in accordance with the laid-down legislation.  Workers were told at a meeting on 28 March that a decision had been made to shut the abattoir down and retrench all workers.  Mayor Richard Mbatha expressed his concern and said the Council would be looking at ways to possibly assist wherever the municipality could.

Bank CEOs warnings re downgrade

CEOs at SA’s major banks have reported that a sovereign credit-rating downgrade would have serious negative implications for economic growth and job creation.  The downgrade will increase government borrowing costs, as bond investors demand a higher return in exchange for higher perceived risk.  “If investors lose faith and trust in our economy, all citizens pay the price for this, in the form of higher inflation, decreased buying power as well as decimated savings, pensions and investments,” the CEO Initiative said.  “A lack of investment also means that growth and much-needed job creation will be stifled,” it added.

Girlock Brakes to retrench staff

Isando-based Girlock Brakes SA has launched a retrenchment programme based on operational requirements following the 95% reduction by Volkswagen (VW) of its contract for the production of rear brakes. The company’s Dean Fragale said the planned retrenchments would affect an estimated 37 employees at the company, which were likely to take effect on 15 June 2017 when the VW contract officially ends.  Girlock currently employs 136 people. VW SA said the reason for the reduction in the contract was that Girlock was unable to meet the technical specifications for the brakes for the new Polo.

African women under-represented among science graduates

African women is significantly under-represented among science graduates at some of SA’s top higher education institutions.  At the University of Stellenbosch (US) and the University of Cape Town, African women — including those from the rest of the continent — account for 3% and 16% of science graduates.  Women do represent more than half of science graduates at some historically black universities, however there is also a lack of diversity in science academia, which is often blamed on the fact that women leave the sciences before they are qualified enough to be hired as academics.  According to the Department of Higher Education and Training’s 2014 data, African women comprise 32% of all science graduates.  In 2014, about 26,000 people graduated with either a three-or four-year science degree – about 8,300 of those were African women.

LEGAL, LEGISLATION AND COMPLIANCE

Three Setas – Cathsseta, Sasseta and W&R Seta – remain under administration

Three Sector Education and Training Authorities (Setas) remain under administration for various reasons.  Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande said in a parliamentary reply this week that the Culture, Arts, Tourism, Hospitality and Sport Seta (Cathsseta) had been under administration since 2014 for consistently failing to meet its objectives and not acting on the recommendations of a forensic investigation commissioned by the board.  The Safety and Security Services Seta (Sasseta) was placed under administration in 2015 for poor governance, which had resulted in mismanagement of the discretionary fund and serious irregularities in a number of contracts entered into, as well as noncompliance with the Skills Development Act and its prescripts.  The Wholesale and Retail Seta (W&R Seta) was the most recent authority to be placed under administration because of its decision to pull out of the initiative to support the Rural and Township Economies Revitalisation Programme, even though the programme was part of its service-level agreement.  There are 21 Setas that cover all work sectors.  They receive more than R14bn in ring-fenced funds annually.

Solidarity seeks court intervention to place MEIBC under administration

Solidarity has filed an application at the Labour Court to have the Metal and Engineering Industries Bargaining Council (MEIBC) placed under administration.  Solidarity, wants the court to appoint a competent person to oversee the financial activities of the MEIBC.

UNION ISSUES

Saftu adopts four-part strategy to get Zuma out of office

On Tuesday the SA Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) said it would step up its mass mobilisation campaign to get President Jacob Zuma out of high office through legal action, following SA’s sovereign credit rating being downgraded to junk status by S&P Global. While the federation condemned ratings agencies acting as “policemen for international monopoly capitalism”, it said the S&P decision was facilitated by Zuma’s reckless axing of ministers, giving S&P the perfect excuse to act.  “We are another big step nearer to a descent into a failed kleptocratic state.  It is now more vital than ever to mobilise the biggest ever protest movement to rescue millions of South Africans from the increased unemployment and poverty, which will inevitably follow this downgrade,” Saftu said in a statement.

President Zuma to hold follow-up meeting with Cosatu after Easter weekend

President Jacob Zuma met Cosatu president S’dumo Dlamini and general secretary Bheki Ntshalintshali on Wednesday, following a call earlier this week by the labour federation’s central executive committee (CEC) for Zuma to resign.  Cosatu cited the president’s failure to consult it about last week’s cabinet reshuffle as one of the reasons he had to step down.  Cosatu spokesman Sizwe Pamla said on Thursday that Zuma and the ANC’s top six officials would meet the CEC after the Easter weekend.  It is unclear whether the federation, once among Zuma’s staunchest supporters, was asked to withdraw its call for him to go.  Pamla said that any resolution taken by the CEC could only be reversed by that structure itself or at a Cosatu congress.  Cosatu’s national office-bearers have no power to reverse resolutions taken by the CEC.

HEALTH AND SAFETY

HIV and tuberculosis in mining sector addressed by new government plan

The SA government has launched a National Strategic Plan (NSP) for HIV, tuberculosis (TB) and sexually transmitted infections (STIs).  The plan draws on the vision of the United Nations programme of zero new HIV infections, zero preventable deaths associated with HIV and zero discrimination associated with HIV.  It is also in line with the World Health Organisation’s goals for reducing TB incidents and mortality, following statistics that Southern Africa has some of the highest rates of TB infection in the world, averaging at 591 cases per 100,000 people compared to the global average of 126 cases per 100,000 people and the mining sector in southern Africa accounts for the highest level of tuberculosis infections in the region.  This fourth NSP seeks to scale up successes while introducing new strategies to prevent new infections, identify infected people sooner and successfully treat and care for them.  It outlines the strategic framework for a multi-sectoral partnership to fast-track progress in reducing the morbidity and mortality associated with HIV, TB and STIs.

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