DISPUTES AND INDUSTRIAL ACTION

Pretoria University strike

The University of Pretoria (UP) and the National Health Education & Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) are continuing discussions to find common ground in the 2017 salary negotiations.  UP has also agreed to allow Nehawu members to continue to picket in front of the university.  An interdict of the Labour Court against unruly picketing has been set aside with the condition that Nehawu would continue its picketing peacefully.  Nehawu is demanding an 8% salary increase with a 100% 13th cheque.  UP has offered a 7% general salary increase effective from 1 March 2017, as well as an additional R3,000 gratuity payment.

Outsourced TUT workers due to strike

Outsourced workers at the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) were threatening strike action due to the issuing of the institution of a tender for new security contractors. This is after the institution committed to end outsourcing. They are also demanding that salaries increase to at least R5,000.  The latest dispute comes after management and representatives of outsourced workers signed an agreement to include workers in the insourcing process. The outsourced workers include security guards, cleaners and catering staff.

Lonmin re-starts two shafts closed due to protests

Lonmin re-opened two of its shafts last week as community protests had ceased. The E2 and E3 shafts, which were temporarily closed after the community demanded jobs at the mine, were fully opened on Saturday but had been paused after the death of a local chief.  The two shafts, which were closed on 3 May, contribute 3% to 4% of total production.

Unpaid municipal salaries lead to Pietermaritzburg protest

Msunduzi Local Municipality staff members started protesting last Wednesday, halting traffic in the Pietermaritzburg CBD after it emerged that they had not been paid on 24 May, the regular payment date.  According to city manager, the system at FNB was hacked thereby causing the problem. The latter is denied by FNB.

Cost of one-day cabin crew strike

The one-day strike by SA Airways (SAA) cabin crew staff over meal allowances cost the national carrier about R32-million due to the cancellation of flights. The dispute is however not yet resolved.

JOB MARKET, JOB CREATION, RESTRUCTURING & RETRENCHMENTS

Consumer inflation at 5.3%

Statistics SA reported the consumer price index (CPI) for April at 5.3% year-on-year, down from 6.1% in March mostly due to lower consumer inflation. The contribution to consumer inflation from food and non-alcoholic beverages decreased from 1.5 percentage points to 1.1 percentage points year-on-year between March and April.  This indicates a return to the Reserve Bank’s target range of 3% to 6%.

South Africa’s illegal mining boom

Mining towns in South Africa who are under siege from illicit syndicates, which employs thousands of desperate jobseekers‚ earn billions of rand annually through the illegal sale of precious metals and diamonds. It is estimated that about 10% of SA’s gold production is stolen and smuggled out of the country, amounting to about R7-billion a year.  With an estimated workforce of 30‚000, the syndicates’ operations run day and night.  Illegal miners are highly sophisticated, they have engineers‚ communications specialists‚ people who can create special lighting systems.  They operate with intricate buying and selling networks. There are often battles underground and the government has identified illicit mining as a national threat.

African Bank planning to retrench 652 staff members

The African Bank has issued notices to its staff related to a restructuring plan that will see as many as 652 staff members retrenched.  If this materialize it would see about a sixth of bank’s staff complement of 4,075 reduced.  The Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) will commence the facilitated process on 30 May 2017.

GMSA workers to lose jobs as a result of pullout

More than a third (589) of General Motors South Africa’s (GMSA’s) workforce of 1,500 workers are to lose their jobs due to GMSA’s decision to withdraw from South Africa.  The automaker indicated that the number was not final and was subject to a consultation process with employees and their unions.  GM has instituted the legally required Section 189 (i.e. retrenchment) process in line with its announcement that it will be withdrawing from South Africa.

Sex work expected to remain a crime after law reform rethink

A report by the SA Law Reform Commission, released last Friday, recommended continued criminalisation of sex workers.  Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Task Force (Sweat) director Sally Shackleton said although they were expecting an evidence-based report, the report is already outdated because of the delay in releasing it.

REMUNERATION AND EMPLOYEE BENEFITS

NUM submits demands to Kumba

The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) tabled its list of wage review demands to Kumba Iron Ore (KIO) for the 2017 wage negotiations on Thursday.  The present three-year agreement between the union and KIO’s Kolomela and Sishen operations in the Northern Cape comes to an end on 30 June.  Among other demands, the union has demanded a one-year deal with salary increases of between 12.5% and 16%.  A housing allowance R5,000 has been demanded for all employees irrespective of grade, while the 45 hours of work currently applicable at Sishen and the 44 hours at Kolomela should be reduced to 40 hours a week.  There is a long list demands relating to leave entitlements.  KIO is expected to table its counter offers on 7 June.

Liviero concludes wage agreement with Amcu

Liviero Mining, who provides civil mining contracting services to the mining industry, concluded an agreement spanning 18 months with Amcu. The agreement provides for a smooth transition to the Bargaining Council for the Civil Engineering Industry (BCCEI) as well as addressing salary increases and alignment of a number of conditions of employment. One of the outcomes of the agreement is that Liviero Mining will support Amcu in gaining recognition at the BCCEI.

Pension contribution mistake costs Cape Town Council R25m

City of Cape Town employees signed up with the SA Municipal Workers’ Union (Samwu) will be paid more than R25-million to address a discrepancy in the city’s pension fund contributions since 2000.  The city and the union have settled out of court following a long battle over what the city was contributing towards the pensions of individual employees.  The monies will be paid into the workers’ pension fund in two tranches, namely R14.6-million to cover the shortfall from 2000, and a further R11.3-million in late payment interest.  Samwu Cape Town regional secretary Mike Khumalo explained that the city had been paying an 18% contribution towards some employees’ pension funds and only 12% for others as a result of the city not increasing its contributions when smaller municipalities amalgamated in 2000 to form the City of Cape Town.

Cosatu, health minister set for clash over National Health Insurance 

Health Minister, Aaron Motsoaledi, and his department are colliding with Cosatu over the National Health Insurance (NHI).  While the department sees a role for the private sector in the implementation of the NHI, which aims to introduce a single fund that purchases healthcare services for all South Africans that are free at the point of delivery, Cosatu is adamant the private sector should be excluded.

Shareholders questions MTN over chairman’s R68m payout

At its AGM, MTN faced questions from shareholders over a payout to Phuthuma Nhleko when he was executive chairman, the group’s transformation plans and its risk and compliance systems.  Nhleko, who took over from former CEO Sifiso Dabengwa in November 2015, was paid a total of R68.19m, including a bonus of R38.1m.  He returned to his role as nonexecutive chairman in March to make way for new group CEO Rob Shuter.  Alan Harper, chairman of MTN’s remuneration and human resources committee, defended Nhleko’s compensation saying the money was linked to, among other things, the strict targets he had to meet and the fact he had to relinquish other commitments outside MTN to focus on the group.

Joburg mayor reverses chief of staff’s R500,000 salary increase

Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba on Thursday reversed a salary increase awarded to his chief of staff, Michael Beaumont, who received an annual increase of almost R500,000 during his probation period.  This increased his salary from R1,351,690 to R1,841,096.  Mashaba said he would now embark on a process in which the increase would go through the council’s committees following unhappiness by opposition parties with the increase.

COMMUNITY PROTESTS AND ACTION

Durban commuters torch train

Commuters torched a train they were travelling on after it broke down on Wednesday in Briardene in Durban. The Metrorail passenger train stalled after experiencing mechanical problems.  Two hours later‚ after being promised alternative transport‚ furious commuters vented their frustration by setting the train alight.  Passing vehicles‚ including police vehicles‚ were damaged as protesters hurled bricks at them.  The protestors also allegedly tried digging up parts of the railway line.  Crowd control methods were used to disperse them.  Several people were left with minor injuries and were attended to by emergency services.

Protesting tow truck drivers block N2 Freeway to Umhlanga

Police and metro police were forced to use stun grenades to disperse protesting tow truck operators who blockaded the N2 Freeway to Umhlanga on Friday morning.  The protest was against Telesure Investment Holdings Short-Term Insurance and it was alleged that the black-owned operators were only given a fraction of business given to white-owned tow truck operators.  Telesure said the grievances were unfounded.

LEGAL, LEGISLATION AND COMPLIANCE

UKZN medical school fraud claims

Allegations that students were being fraudulently enrolled at the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s (UKZN’s) medical school needed to be investigated swiftly, the South African Medical Association (SAMA) said on Tuesday. The owners of popular Durban restaurant Little Gujarat have appeared in court on fraud charges following allegations that they were selling places to study at the medical school.  The three allegedly worked in cahoots with a syndicate at UKZN to fraudulently enrol students in the health science faculty and school of medicine.  University principal Dr Albert van Jaarsveld said the institution’s forensic services unit was working with law enforcement agencies to identify those involved.  He anticipated further arrests.

Civil servant’s sexual harassment complaints ignored for eight years

A civil servant whose senior managers brushed off her sexual harassment complaints against her immediate supervisor for eight years has now had to apply for a protection order.  The (unnamed) 44-year-old government employee in the labour relations unit in the Greater Sekhukhune District Municipality in Limpopo applied for the protection order against the institution’s (also unnamed) corporate services director at the end of March.  The executive mayor has apparently only now referred the matter to the municipal manager for urgent attention.  The employee’s interim protection order warns the supervisor against intimidation and threats of dismissal from work, sexual harassment and any other related harassment, and against insulting or scolding her.

Legalise zama-zamas

There are more voices being added to decriminilise illegal mining and incorporate it in some manner into the mainstream mining legislation. Some experts say that zama zamas are not committing a crime and that is why the government should decriminalise illegal mining. More than 40 illegal miners died in Welkom ten days ago after an underground explosion.  Robert Thornton, who has done a lot of research on illegal mining said that legalised informal mining would allow more protection for zama zamas.  Last week, the SA Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) demanded that “these super-exploited workers be legalised, trained and given the opportunity to work.  The Department of Mineral Resources and the Chamber of Mines of SA, however, remain steadfast in their stance against illegal mining.

HEALTH AND SAFETY

Blast on Monday shuts part of Sasol’s Natref refinery, 14 injured

Chemical conglomerate Sasol closed part of the Natref inland crude oil refinery in Sasolburg following an explosion early on Monday morning.  Sasol said the explosion, which affected 14 people, occurred at about 7.45am near the plant’s hydrogen compressors and resulted in a fire that was extinguished an hour later.  Eight people were treated for shock, three for dust inhalation and three for minor injuries.  The blast was heard and felt in Vereeniging, about 30km away.  Operating units near the hydrogen compressors were shut down.  The company is investigating the cause of the incident, as well as the effect it would have on production.

UNION POLITICS

Saftu and Amcu cooperating with joint campaigns

The new SA Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) and the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) are cooperating through campaigns to fight unemployment and a commemoration in August of the Marikana killings.  According to Saftu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi, the two organisations would lead the biggest mobilisation of working class to the Union Buildings in Pretoria to demand jobs. Amcu is an independent union led by President Joseph Mathunjwa and has a considerable membership base in the mining sector, especially in the North West platinum belt.

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