DISPUTES AND INDUSTRIAL ACTION

Cosatu wants Absa to pay back apartheid bailout 

A few hundred Cosatu members marched to Absa’s head office in Johannesburg on Thursday calling for the bank to repay the bailout money paid to Bankorp by the Reserve Bank during apartheid.  Between 1985 and 1993, the apartheid government provided Bankorp with a series of bailouts, through the Reserve Bank, to offset loans that threatened Bankorp’s survival.  Absa took over Bankorp in 1992.  Separately, the Competition Commission in February referred a case of collusion to the Competition Tribunal for prosecution against 17 banks, including Absa.  Cosatu’s Gauteng provincial chairperson Vusi Monyela said they had strategically chosen to march to Absa because the bank had not only colluded, but also benefited from loans that belonged to South Africans. 

Department of Social Development strike ended

Striking members of the National Education Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) employed by the Department of Social Development (DSD) returned to work last Tuesday following the signing of an agreement ending a five-week strike.  Negotiations date back to August 2015as early as August 2015, when the union put forward 13 demands‚ which included higher entry-level salaries and rural allowances.  Nehawu spokesperson Khaya Xaba said most of the demands had now been addressed, however the only thing they were not able to agree on was the implementation and modalities of the rural allowance and the review of the Occupation Specific Dispensation for social services workers.

NUM in dispute with Evander Gold Mines

The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) has declared a dispute against Evander Gold Mines (EGM), claiming that EGM is refusing to apply avoidance measures as per the retrenchment agreement.  EGM is a subsidiary of Pan African Resources (PAR). The retrenchment of some 30% of the mine’s employees is aimed at reducing the underground operation’s fixed cost base.  PAR meanwhile reported that it was adhering strictly to the collective agreement, which was facilitated by the CCMA.

Nehawu and Rhodes University

Rhodes University said it had received notification from the National Education Health & Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) of the union’s intent to embark on three days of protected industrial action over wages.  The planned action will take the form of lunch hour picketing during last week, while this week Tuesday the union will embark on a march to the Great Hall where a memorandum will be handed over to management.  This follows a deadlock in wage negotiations in which the union has rejected a revised offer of a 5% salary adjustment for 2017.

Transport union Untu warns Prasa of strike action

The United National Transport Union (Untu) has warned the Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa) that a strike may be looming after the union rejected the improved wage offer of 7%. The latest developments come after the CCMA issued Untu with a ‘strike certificate’ giving it the right to give 48 hours’ notice of protected industrial action.  Untu is in the process of conducting a strike ballot amongst its members.

Unpaid cast, crew of ‘Sarafina’ go on strike

The musical drama Sarafina has been hit by a payment dispute, with unpaid cast and crew refusing to perform.  The actors of the new and revived 80s hit refused to go to the stage for their daily performance of the remake of the musical from last Wednesday, forcing the SA State Theatre (SAST) to cancel all shows until Sunday.  It is alleged the Department of Arts and Culture (DAC) has not paid Committed Artists, a SA theatre company, what is owed in respect of the production.

K C M O reaches agreement

K C M O, a community service company in the Northern Cape that was born out of the Social and Labour Plan commitments of United Manganese of Kalahari, signed a wage agreement with the National Union of Mineworkers awarding employees increases of 7%. The Company has twin objectives of providing services to companies in the area and employing members of the communities in the area.

REMUNERATION

Consumer inflation slows

In March consumer inflation slowed with a moderation in food price increases, but economists claim that interest rate cuts are unlikely pending the inflation falls back into the Reserve Bank’s target band of 3% to 6%.  The consumer price index (CPI) rose 6.1% year-on-year after a 6.3% increase in February following the decrease in food inflation.  The food and nonalcoholic beverages index increased 8.7%, after rising 9.9% in February.  Food inflation is moderating because the drought is dissipating and the rand is comparatively stronger.  Economist Sanisha Packirisamy expects a further decrease in food inflation in coming months.  The improved weather conditions have potential for bread and cereal prices while the 2017 maize harvest is set to nearly double compared to 2016, which would mean lower grain prices.

Nehawu to seek above-inflation increases

The National Education Health & Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) committed to seek wage hikes above the inflation rate in coming public sector negotiations that are expected to begin in June or July.   The public sector wage bill accounts for nearly half of government income and has risen more than 80% over the last decade, with yearly increases averaging more than 6% above inflation. The SA Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu), as well two transport sector unions, have also said they would pursue above-inflation increases for their members.

Numsa and Eskom over R30 million payment

National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) general secretary Irvin Jim has berated Eskom for its parting payment of R30.1 million to former chief executive Brian Molefe.  Molefe spent only 18 months at the power utility and resigned in November 2016 after former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s report revealed his curious relationship with the controversial Gupta family. The new Public Protector has received two complaints about the hefty payment and they are being are being assessed for jurisdiction and merit.  The complaints came from the Democratic Alliance and the SA National Civic Organisation.

Increases to sanitation engineers from Cuba

The Minister of Water and Sanitation, Nomvula Mokonyane, recently approved an increase of R11.3-million in respect of the costs of a group of 31 Cuban engineers who commenced duties in SA in 2015.  In an answer to a parliamentary question, Mokonyane indicated that the engineers’ total basic salaries increased from R10.4-million to R19.1-million.  Their annual transport costs increased dramatically to R5.1-million, while their housing costs were R6.4-million.  The department also pays the engineers’ cell phone and internet costs.  

JOB MARKET, JOB CREATION, RESTRUCTURING & RETRENCHMENTS

Job losses in mining slow down

According to the Chamber of Mines of SA (COM), job losses in mining have slowed down compared to 2015.  This improvement follows the backdrop of moderate growth in the sector driven by platinum group metals.  The sustained rise of commodity prices has also helped the mining sector.  Last week, figures released by Statistics SA show that mining production increased 4.6% year-on-year in February 2017, after a 1.4% year-on-year increase in January.  COM chief economist Henk Langenhoven indicated that nearly 40,000 jobs had been lost in mining from the beginning of 2015 to the end of 2016.

PE teacher shortage

Efforts to address critical teacher shortages at Nelson Mandela Bay schools have suffered yet another setback, when the relocation of excess teachers was delayed by another three months.  Almost 300 surplus teachers are now unsure about where to report for work, following the process of assigning them to schools where they are needed – which should have happened at the start of the second term.

UNION ISSUES

New labour federation Saftu gears up for action

The entry of the South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) will lead to heightened competition for union membership in workplaces across the economy.  Saftu is set to launch in Gauteng with a membership of nearly 700,000 people.  The Federation of Unions of SA (Fedusa) has just over 550,000 and the National Council of Trade Unions (Nactu) has 400,000.  Cosatu has 1.2-million members.  Two former Cosatu affiliates, the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) and the Food and Allied Workers Union (Fawu), are the new federation’s largest affiliates.  It was registered by the Department of Labour on 31 March and consists of 23 affiliates, with an additional 16 unions in the wings, pending affiliation.

Fedusa demands that Saftu must change its name

New South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) might be colliding with its rival, the Federation of Unions of SA (Fedusa), over its choice of name.  Fedusa instructed its attorneys to issue a letter of demand to Zwelinzima Vavi, Saftu’s steering committee convenor, to change the new body’s name, or face legal action.  Fedusa has objected to Saftu’s name because it closely resembles theirs.  Saftu registered with the Labour Department last month and its new name, chosen ahead of two others, is expected to be ratified at its congress this weekend.  Vavi confirmed having received correspondence from Fedusa’s attorneys, but has written back dismissing the demand.

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