DISPUTES AND INDUSTRIAL ACTION

Lonmin’s shafts to remain closed

After continuous community protests since 2 May 2017, Lonmin had intended re-opening its E2 and E3 shaft operations last Sunday, however the company had decided to keep the operations closed until the Company is satisfied that it could be safely re-opened.  Lonmin had meetings with representatives of both the Bapo ba Mogale Traditional Council and the unemployed youth grouping and agreement was reached with the Traditional Council last Thursday that it would appeal to the protesters to stop protesting and to start working with Lonmin on a process of engagement.

In the meantime Lonmin is still assessing job creation proposals by its service providers and will update the Bapong community on the outcome this coming week.  The company indicated that, while it could not afford to hire any of the unemployed Bapong residents, its service providers could assist by employing some of the locals in the North West mining area.

Mangaung metro workers set to strike

More than 3,000 employees of the Mangaung metro (Free State Province) plan to go on a protected strike from Tuesday following allegations of corruption, nepotism and unauthorised meddling in the performance of work by ANC councilors.  The bargaining council for local authorities has already given permission for a protected strike and the workers have been issued with a certificate in this regard.  Stakeholders are hopeful that ongoing discussions being held with Samwu would lead to the planned strike being cancelled.

Central Rand Gold strike ended

The strike action by BAMCWU at Central Rand Gold was ended on Wednesday last week after the parties reached agreement on the structured and staggered implementation of a 13th cheque for bargaining unit employees at the operation. In addition, but prior to the strike, the parties reached agreement on a 7% increase to salaries.

Phalaborwa mine suspends operations

The wage strike at copper producer Palabora Mining Company entered its thirteenth day last week, leaving operations at a virtual standstill.  Even though the strike was protected and the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) had agreed to peaceful action, the company had in the past week noted a significant increase in acts if intimidation of non-striking workers and contractors exiting and entering the mine premises.  To protect non-striking employees, the management has advised them to stay at home until further notice.  Amcu members are demanding a 12% wage hike for 2017, 11% for 2018 and 10% for 2019, as well as housing and other work-related benefits.  This was after talks with unions, including the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), deadlocked when the employer offered 8% for 2017 and 7% for 2018 and 2019.

SAA lost over nearly R31m due to one-day strike action by cabin crew

South African Airways (SAA) lost altogether R31m when members of the SA Cabin Crew Association (Sacca) went on strike in late April.  On 3 May, the Labour Court granted SAA a final order against Sacca and its members. The order interdicted Sacca and its members from embarking on industrial action and declared the industrial action an unprotected strike.

Absa Capital employees stage a walk out

About 20 black professionals at Absa Capital walked out during the announcement of leadership changes in Sandton after a top black manager, Phakamani Hadebe, was passed over for the position of head of corporate and investment banking.

JOB MARKET, JOB CREATION, RESTRUCTURING AND RETRENCHMENTS

Trans Hex places Bloeddrif on care and maintenance

The Trans Hex Group confirmed that it had placed its Bloeddrif mine, in the Richtersveld region of the Northern Cape, on care and maintenance.  Earlier this week, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) condemned the sudden closure of the mine and claimed that the diamond miner had not informed its 110 members of the mine’s closure in time. Bloeddrif is part of Trans Hex’s ageing Lower Orange River (LOR) operations and currently employs 115 employees.  All employees were formally briefed about the mine’s closure by members of management on 16 May.  They will continue to receive full pay while the company undertakes the necessary statutory processes of engagement and consultation with relevant stakeholders.

Unions again calls for youth employment tax scheme to be scrapped

Trade unions have made renewed calls for the scrapping of the Employment Tax Incentive four years after its launch.  The scheme, which has paid qualifying employers R6.3bn in claims between 2014 and 2016 for hiring young people earning below R6,000 per month, was originally rejected by labour following increasing fears that it would lead to job losses among older workers.  It has been impossible to measure the effect of the programme on job creation due to a countless factors including tax confidentiality laws.

Lonmin to relocate its head office to Marikana

Lonmin announced that it was relocating its head office from Melrose Arch to Marikana to cut costs.  This came as it warned of a possible breach of its covenant to credit facilities, amid widening operating losses in the half-year to March.

State Diamond Trader has presided over job losses

The annual performance plan report of the Department of Mineral Resources and its entities indicated that the performance of the State Diamond Trader, which was set up to endorse the local beneficiation of diamonds, was not satisfactory. Diamond exporters have to make up to 10% of their rough diamonds available to the State Diamond Trader so that it can supply historically disadvantaged beneficiates. The State Diamond Trader is planning to increase its supply of rough diamonds to historically disadvantaged beneficiates by 25% over the next five year period.

Billiton name to disappear from BHP

BHP Billiton has announced it will drop the name “Billiton” in a rebranding exercise to build its standing as a major Australian company rather than a multinational one.  The Australian roots of the world’s biggest miner stretch back to 1885 and it became BHP Billiton in a merger with the South African company that bore that name in 2001. BHP would also change its logo.

Almost all working South Africans fear losing their jobs

A survey has revealed that the biggest fear of up to 92% of South African employees is losing their jobs. The survey was conducted in March across 16 countries, including the BRICS nations.  A total of 1,000 people were interviewed in SA.  Other concerns of local workers include climate change (74%), weakening labour laws (74%), cyber-attacks (72%) and inequality between men and women (62%).  More than half (54%) of respondents fear technology will take over their jobs.  The survey also revealed that 78% of South Africans believe the economic system favours the wealthy.  Some 74% want more apprenticeships and opportunities for life-long learning.

Johnson & Johnson to cut 114 employees

Johnson & Johnson, one of the biggest manufacturers of medical devices, pharmaceutical and consumer products in SA, will be retrenching 114 workers from the end of this month.  The East London-based company has resorted to shutting down three production lines – baby shampoo, baby powder and aqueous creams – to stay afloat.  The company currently employs 53 permanent workers and approximately 1,200 contractors.  The 114 affected workers belong to the Chemical, Energy, Paper, Printing, Wood and Allied Workers’ Union (Ceppwawu).  They were employed through labour broking company Manpower.  The average length of service among the workers ranges from eight to 12 years and they will apparently be entitled to about three weeks’ pay for each year of service.

Up to 3,000 silicon metal jobs at stake

A decision by Nersa could be too late to save up to 3,000 jobs of employees and contractors, as high electricity costs have rendered silicon metal production in SA uncompetitive since 2016.  On 3 May, Nersa decided to publish for public comment an application from Eskom to grant eMalahleni-based Silicon Smelters (SS) discounted short-term tariffs.  Given the procedures now involved, a decision might realistically only be forthcoming towards the latter part of the year. The company cannot compete against producers on the international market for specifically silicon metal due to electricity costs that are three to five times higher.

General Motors leaving South Africa by end of 2017

General Motors (GM) informed employees and unions that it is leaving South Africa.  The US car maker is selling its manufacturing operations in Struandale‚ Port Elizabeth‚ to Isuzu. About 50 jobs may be negatively impacted upon.

Stuttafords shuts three stores as rescue prospects grow dim 

Stuttafords has shut three of its department stores as the struggling company puts up a fight to fend off liquidation.  Last week the 159-year-old retailer begun the process of shutting the stores located at Johannesburg’s Clearwater Mall and Rosebank Mall and Canal Walk Shopping Centre in Cape Town.  This will reduce the department store footprint from nine to six.  Along with the department stores, Stuttafords shut two of its 14 mono-brand stores (brands with own stand-alone stores) – and still maintained its three stores outside SA (two in Botswana and one in Namibia).  It is unclear how many job losses will be incurred from the closures, but since Stuttafords placed itself into voluntary business rescue on 28 October, it has cut its staff complement by more than 50.  The department chain employs 763 people.

Rolfes Silica retrenchments

Rolfes Silica in the NorthWest Province, reduced labour by 10 positions. However, after a CCMA facilitated process was followed involving the National union of Mineworkers, no forced retrenchments will take place. Instead a combination of voluntary retrenchments and redeployment to lower employment vacancies will be implemented.

REMUNERATION AND EMPLOYEE BENEFITS

Chemical Industry Wage Negotiations

The first round of wage negotiations in the Chemical Industry took place over the period 8 May to 16 May 2017, in the Industrial Chemicals, Glass, FMCG and Pharmaceutical sectors. The Petroleum sector will not be negotiating in 2017 as a two- year agreement was concluded in 2016. Early indications are that a multi-year agreement may be possible. The union(s) demands are more excessive than in other industries with the wage demand for a 20% increase and for minimum wages to be increased to R 10,000 per month.

Liviero Mining in bargaining dispute

Liviero Mining and the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) approached the Bargaining Council for the Civil Engineering Industry (BCCEI) to resolve a dispute concerning whether collective bargaining should be at plant or bargaining council level. Liviero Mining is rendering civil engineering contracting to various opencast mining operations. The outcome was that collective bargaining must be at the BCCEI. Liviero and Amcu are now putting in place the arrangements to ensure a smooth transition. Of significance in this matter is that however it appears to be resolved by the BCCEI, the commissioner also issued a strike certificate to Amcu.

CEE proposes compliance certificates for employers

The Commission for Employment Equity (CEE) has proposed changes to the way racial and gender employment targets are set.  It has suggested the introduction of new compliance certificates for any employer seeking to do business with the state.  Section 53 is a dormant part of the Employment Equity Act that the CEE has advised Labour Minister to now activate.  The section creates a new penalty – obliging companies to apply for a compliance certificate to do business with the state.  However, it could become complicated on how compliance will be measured for the purposes of obtaining this certificate.

Prasa’s offer to increase salaries makes a strike unlikely

Passenger Rail Authority of SA (Prasa) said that plans to slash staff costs by R579m this financial year would not deter it from raising pay 8%.  Prasa has also promised workers there will be no forced retrenchments which makes a strike seems unlikely.  The SA Transport and Allied Workers’ Union (Satawu) reported that most of its members favour an 8% increase.  Six of the union’s nine regions has accepted the offer, while a few outstanding matters still needed to be finalised with management this week.  Prasa’s 8% offer to its 17,000 employees in a one-year deal has raised union expectations that the agency will offer voluntary severance packages and take other steps to keep employment costs under control.

HEALTH AND SAFETY

Explosion in disused Free State mine claims more lives

The death toll after an explosion at a disused mine in Welkom in the Free State has risen to 29.  Last week there was an underground explosion at the mine that was previously owned by Harmony Gold. Survivors said more bodies were still underground.  Eleven illegal miners, who came out of a mine shaft while the bodies were being retrieved‚ had been arrested and were currently in police custody.  Among the dead are Zimbabweans‚ Mozambicans and at least one Lesotho national.

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