DISPUTES AND INDUSTRIAL ACTION

Gauteng taxi strike resolved

Following the strike by taxi drivers on Thursday, the Department of Transport confirmed that an agreement has been reached between taxi association Santaco and SA Taxi Finance Holdings.  Santaco and other taxi operators were challenging the country’s biggest minibus vehicle finance scheme to charge them reasonable fees.  According to reports, Transactional Capital, the car finance arm of SA Taxi Finance, charges 28% interest on a Quantum minibus that generally retails at about R450,000.

Mangaung municipal strike

Olly Mlamleli, executive mayor of the Mangaung metro, announced last Wednesday that the strike by members of the SA Municipal Workers’ Union (Samwu) regarding demands relating to equalization of wages and other issues was over and that employees were returning to their workplaces.  The underlying union demands have however not yet been resolved.

Military medical officers deployed at Gauteng mortuaries

Ten operational emergency care practitioners from the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) are working at mortuaries in Hillbrow‚ Germiston and Diepkloof in place of forensic pathology officers who have been on strike for the last two weeks at more than a dozen mortuaries across the province. They are demanding better remuneration‚ counselling sessions‚ a danger allowance and the reinstatement of debriefing sessions from the Department of Health.

Strike action at Cooke operations

Sibanye Gold announced last Monday that 202 illegal miners had been arrested at its Cooke operations southwest of Johannesburg since the start of a violent wildcat strike the Tuesday before.  The strike, which has seen more than a dozen miners assaulted by strikers, was triggered by workers angered by the company drive to root out illegal miners.  Some employees have also been arrested for collusion and for taking food down to the illegal miners working underground.  A company spokesman said the Cooke operation would be closed for the rest of the week as the gold producer assessed the security situation.  The illegal miners arrested have been forced to come to the surface because of the strike, which has emptied the shafts of employees, thereby starving them of their sources of food and water underground – an inadvertent consequence of the stoppage.

Satawu members strike at AARTO

Members of the SA Transport and Allied Workers’ Union (Satawu) at Gauteng’s Road Traffic Infringement Agency (RTIA), responsible for managing the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (AARTO), commenced strike action over work hours.  The employees include adjudicators, call centre agents, revenue service staff, administrators and general workers.  “The trouble started when workers noticed a discrepancy in the stipulated hours of work in their letter of appointment as opposed to what was stated in the original Conditions of Service Policy.  The policy stated 40 hours of work per week, including lunch and tea breaks, while the letter of appointment put total hours of work at 45 hours per week,” the union indicated.  According to the union, further talks with management on the work hours yielded no success.  After the matter was referred to the CCMA, a certificate of non-resolution was issued, opening the way for Satawu to embark on a protected strike.

Mpumalanga teachers ‘go-slow’

For the past three weeks, teachers in the Mpumalanga province have been coming to work for only two hours a day.  More than 24,000 members of the SA Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) have said they will not return to full-time teaching until the education department’s moratorium on filling posts is lifted.  A meeting last week between representatives of labour federation Cosatu and Mpumalanga Premier David Mabuza failed to find a solution.

REMUNERATION AND JOB CREATION

Liviero concludes wage agreement with Amcu

Liviero Mining concluded a wage agreement with the Association of Mining and Construction Union (AMCU). This agreement, which is effectively 18 months in duration, represents the first agreement concluded this year in the coalfields and provides for a 9% increase, improvements to the production bonus scheme as well as moving future wage negotiations to the Bargaining Council for the Civil Engineering Industry (BCCEI).

NUM threatens strike at Msobo Coal

The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) threatened that it would be embarking on a protected strike at Msobo Coal’s operations in Mpumalanga after the company withdrew from the Chamber of Mines’ centralised bargaining forum.  NUM chief negotiator in the coal sector, Peter Bailey, said the strike was expected to begin on Tuesday this week.  He indicated that the purpose of the strike was to compel Msobo Coal and its management to comply with the recommendations of an advisory award regarding the matter and to align itself with the process of wage negotiations that was currently ongoing at the Chamber.  In 2016, coal mining members of the Chamber, including Msobo Coal, indicated that they intended to negotiate wages on a decentralised basis with effect from 2017.  Bailey said that when that decision was subsequently reversed, “Msobo Coal chose to resign with immediate effect from the Chamber without consulting the NUM.”

Nehawu threatens wage strike at Dube TradePort

The National Education Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) in KwaZulu-Natal is preparing for a strike at the Dube TradePort, which is located 30km north of Durban, after wage negotiations deadlocked. In a statement, the union said it had convened numerous meetings with management of the port, following which the membership mandated the leadership to roll out preparations for strike action.  The demands include salary increases equal to CPI plus 6% (i.e. 12%), a R12,000 minimum wage, the introduction of a 13th cheque‚ a monthly housing allowance of R1,500 and medical aid coverage whereby the employer would contribute 50% of the premiums. The employer’s offer is at 8%.

Numsa rejects 5.3% wage offer in metal and engineering sector

The National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) has rejected an offer by employers in the metal and engineering industries for a 5.3% wage increase.  This came after Numsa tabled a demand for a 15% wage increase across the board based on the actual rates that workers were earning.  The current wage agreement covering the sector lapses at the end of June.  Numsa also wants a two-year deal, all outstanding issues to be finalised and the extension of the agreement to non-parties falling under the Metal and Engineering Industries Bargaining Council (MEIBC).  In response, employers proposed, among other things, a three-year wage agreement with a 5.3% increase across the board for the first year based on minimum rates rather than actual rates. 

LABOUR ECONOMICS AND THE JOB MARKET

Agriculture the best job creation performer

Nehru Pillay, general manager for Research and Intelligence at the Land Bank, writes in an article that, even though SA has slipped into a technical recession, last week’s announcement by Statistics SA showed positive GDP growth in two sectors, namely agriculture and mining.  While this growth was not enough to offset the overall contraction in the economy, it underscored the potential of agriculture to become an anchor for positive economic growth.  The agricultural sector GDP growth was particularly impressive in the first quarter of 2017, at 22% quarter-on-quarter annualised.  This was the first sign of positive growth following eight consecutive quarters of negative growth, which was largely driven by persistent drought conditions across the country.  On the employment front, the agricultural sector noted increases during the third and fourth quarters of last year, which indicate the jobs potential that the sector holds.  Land Bank, for example, is working to create partnerships between established commercial players in the sector and emerging farmers to drive economic transformation and social inclusivity.  As more partnerships are forged and more sector players become aligned, the outlook on employment can only improve.

New Mining Charter 

Mining companies would need to top up their black ownership levels to 30% from 26% within 12 months from the time the new Mining Charter comes into effect, Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane announced last Thursday.  He added that companies seeking prospecting rights would need black ownership of 50% plus one.  The release of the latest and third iteration of the charter, which was boycotted by the Chamber of Mines (COM) and trade union Solidarity, laid out requirements for companies to allocate shares to employees, nearby communities and black entrepreneurs.  The Num is however supportive of the new Charter.

Court orders MEIBC to be placed under administration

In a first in South Africa, trade union Solidarity has succeeded in its application to have the Metal and Engineering Industries Bargaining Council (MEIBC) placed under administration.  The first of its kind in the country, Solidarity deputy general secretary Marius Croucamp welcomed the judgment by Judge Sean Snyman, noting that it was a necessary step to ensure the MEIBC was “rescued from going under”.  The union believes the court order would change the landscape in the steel and engineering industry, with the appointment of an administrator ensuring that the MEIBC would not regress further.  Snyman noted that the MEIBC had fallen into financial disarray owing to maladministration, including the failure to submit yearly financial statements, failure to finalise its statements, no permanent financial manager being employed, non-disclosure of essential information by the MEIBC GM and the misappropriation of funds.  He also raised concerns over MEIBC’s ongoing funding of the Dispute Resolution Centre (DRC), as its dispute resolution functions “have all but collapsed”.  The Department of Labour, the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) and employers’ organisations have agreed to the court order.

EMPLOYEE BENEFITS

GEPF pension funds not being used to bail out struggling SOEs

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa last Wednesday said concerns that the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) used pensioners’ money to bail out struggling state-owned entities (SOEs) were unfounded.  He was responding to a question from the Democratic Alliance’s (DA) Natasha Mazzone about the entity’s investment in the debt of SOEs.  The PIC invests money on behalf of government employees belonging to the Government Employees Pension Fund (GEPF) and there have been concerns about the entity’s exposure to the bonds issued specifically by SOEs.  Ramaphosa stated that the PIC would always make sure funds were well-managed and that its investment strategy was prudent.

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