DISPUTES AND INDUSTRIAL ACTION

Sibanye dismisses 1,514 workers at Cooke operations

Sibanye Gold confirmed that 1,514 workers out of a workforce of about 4,000, had been dismissed at its Cooke operations, near Westonaria, for not returning to work. The workers had embarked on an unlawful and unprotected strike more than a week before following the company’s attempts to combat illegal mining.  According to Sibanye spokesperson James Wellsted, 739 of the dismissed workers were members of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), the majority union at the mine.  Since the implementation of Sibanye’s anti-illegal miner programme, which included banning workers from taking food underground, 234 illegal miners have surfaced.

Agreement to avert strike at Home Affairs

The National Education Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) has signed an agreement with the Department of Home Affairs to avert an imminent strike over working hours at the department.  The union indicated that the agreement confirms “that workers will revert back to the working conditions that were applied prior to the introduction of the imposed new working hours by the department’s director general.”  The dispute saw employees threatening to down tools from Monday due to a requirement that workers must work on Saturday.  Nehawu’s general secretary‚ Bereng Soke said that according to the agreement‚ “an understanding and a directive was reached that the department must table in the bargaining chamber a proposal on the new working arrangements for negotiations with labour”. In the meantime the Department started Saturday work with volunteers but reported a dismal turnout yesterday.

Gauteng pathologists continue with strike

The worse affected mortuaries in the Gauteng strike by pathologists are the Germiston, Diepkloof and Hillbrow mortuaries where a backlog of between 200 and 250 bodies exist.  The Gauteng department of health said it was working at decreasing the backlog with the assistance of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) and the Wits University anatomy department. The Health and Other Services Personnel Trade Union of SA (Hospersa) said the strike was about the duties that forensic pathology officers were required to perform, which they claimed were beyond their scope of work and should be performed by trained forensic pathologists.  Discussions with the union are continuing with indications that the strike could be brought to conclusion during this weekend.

Mangaung strike by Samwu

Municipal workers in Bloemfontein, who have been on strike for a month, are due to go back to work on Monday.  The city’s longest-running strike affected everyone, from the city centre to the suburbs, while the closed offices meant the city lost a large amount of income.  Members of the South African Municipal Workers’ Union (Samwu) were asking for salary increases and were protesting against what they described as illegal appointments, nepotism and victimisation.  They have been accused of burning down the city hall, burning tyres, intimidation and harassment of non-striking workers.  The Labour Court declared the strike illegal and unprotected.  The union reacted by indicating that it was law-abiding and would return to work on Monday.

Crime intelligence officers threaten strike action

Turmoil is brewing within the police’s crime intelligence unit, with operatives threatening to go on strike or disobey new acting head Major General Patrick Mokushane’s order which gave all crime intelligence officers until this Monday to vacate the unit’s headquarters in Erasmuskloof, Pretoria, and be deployed to police clusters around the country. SA Policing Union (Sapu) president Mpho Kwinika said the union was challenging the decision and had declared a conflict with the employer.  It appears that all the new acting head wanted was for operatives to be out and about and doing their jobs.

WAGE NEGOTIATIONS, REMUNERATION & EMPLOYEE BENEFITS

Dispute in metal and engineering wage talks

Trade unions on Thursday declared a dispute with employers in the metals and engineering industries over stalled wage negotiations.  The talks are currently under way at the Metal and Engineering Industries Bargaining Council (MEIBC).  The dispute is apparently regarding demands placed on the agenda by employers imposing wage proposals which would see new workers in the sector earning only half of the current minimum rate. The current wage agreement lapses at the end of June.  Solidarity is demanding a 10% wage increase, while the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) is demanding 15% (on actual as opposed to minimum rates).  On 9 June, employers in the MEIBC offered 5.3% across the board for the first year of a three-year agreement based on minimum rates.

Recovering missing R255m of platinum mineworkers’ pension monies

The Financial Services Board (FSB) has placed Bophelo Benefit Services and the Bophelo Beneficiary Fund under curatorship after it was reported that R255m in mine worker pension money was missing from the fund.  In April it was reported that the fund, administered by Bophelo Benefit Services, cooked its 2015 and 2016 financials and falsely claimed to own two “investment properties”.  It did this to account for R255m missing from its coffers.  Last week, the FSB appointed Juanito Damons as curator of both the fund and Bophelo Benefit Services.  This action was informed by the fund’s two most recent financial statements, complaints by Anglo American Platinum and a report by City Press.  Damons will take custody of the cash, cash investments, investment policies, stocks, shares and securities of both Bophelo Benefit Services and the fund.

Public sector wage negotiations

Terry Bell writes in Fin24 about the public sector wage negotiations that are due to start next month.  He says the view of unions across the labour spectrum is that the kleptocratic faction in government have squandered and misappropriated billions of rands and it is public sector workers and the public at large who are now expected to pay for it.  The unions claim, with ample justification, that cost-cutting and other austerity measures are now a government priority and they point to the fact that of the 1.3 million designated public sector jobs, at least 10% remain vacant.  Promises of improvements in grading, pay and conditions in various sectors have also been put on hold.  Ministers continue to claim that job creation is a priority, while supporting the freezing of posts in an attempt to cut costs.  “What it means is that fewer workers are available to provide services to the public,” says Ivan Fredericks of the 230,000-strong Public Servants Association (PSA).

CEO guaranteed pay increases much higher than inflation

Deloitte’s Inaugural Executive Compensation Report indicates that increases in the guaranteed pay of chief executives at the largest 100 JSE-listed companies have exceeded inflation by a considerable margin over the past five years on a compound annual growth rate basis.  There also appears to have been little correlation between CEO guaranteed pay and the size and complexity of the organisation, particularly among firms with a market cap of between R5 billion and R50 billion.  Published against the background of growing criticism of excessive executive remuneration at some listed firms, the report provides an analysis of six years’ worth of executive pay and company performance data and an assessment of the remuneration reports of these companies.  The report also comes in the wake of the introduction of the King IV Report, which will be effective for financial years starting on or after 1 April 2017 and will raise the bar for the implementation and disclosure of executive pay practices.

JOB MARKET, LABOUR ECONOMICS AND EMPLOYMENT

Fires in Knysna have left at least 2,500 people jobless

Reports indicate that at least 2,500 people are estimated to be without work as a result of the recent devastating fires in Knysna.  The unemployed are typically people whose business enterprises burnt down or those who worked in restaurants which were damaged.  Companies that provide garden, accounting, repair and suchlike services are also suffering.

Ex-Aurora workers waiting for payment of retrenchment packages

Former mineworkers of Aurora Empowerment, previously owned by President Jacob Zuma’s nephew Khulubuse and Nelson Mandela’s grandson Zondwa, have yet to be paid their retrenchment packages.  This is despite confirmation that Khulubuse has stuck to a payment agreement plan he reached with the liquidators last September.  Khulubuse’s lawyer and trade union Solidarity’s general secretary Gideon du Plessis confirmed that Khulubuse has not skipped payments.   To date he has paid an estimated of R9.5-million.   Aurora was liquidated in October 2011 and its directors were found by the court to have stripped and destroyed the assets of the mine, leading to more than 5,300 workers losing their jobs.  Liquidator Gert de Wet said the payments were yet to be made because he has been waiting for the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) to submit pay slips of registered workers.  NUM spokesman Livhuwani Mammburu said the union was not the employer and did not have access to the payroll.  It will, however, hold mass meetings with workers to see if they could provide pay slips.

Gauteng to launch job creation drive

The Gauteng province is ready to tackle the scourge of unemployment head-on with the creation of 600,000 jobs by 2019.  This was announced on Thursday by provincial MEC for economic development, environmental affairs and agriculture Lebogang Maile during a pre-departmental budget vote.  He will present the province’s budget vote in the Gauteng provincial legislature on Monday.  Maile said the fact that 2.7 million young people were unemployed in Gauteng represented a “huge crisis” in a province with a population of 12 million.  The province plans to focus on the productive side of the economy, ensuring the availability of water, space and markets to potential investors.  Additionally, an amount of R42 billion has been invested in infrastructure development, a move Maile hopes will create jobs.  He also announced a move to integrate the R100 billion township economy into the mainstream economy by bringing big economic players to help small entrepreneurs in the townships.

Launch of youth internships stalled

A joint venture between the government and the private sector to create a million youth internships has become a casualty of the cabinet reshuffle in March.  Colin Coleman, joint chair of the CEO Initiative’s unemployment workstream, said the launch, initially scheduled for July, was postponed to early 2018 as CEOs had to “remandate the team on the way forward” after former finance minister Pravin Gordhan was sacked.  Gordhan was spearheading a joint business and government grouping tasked with exploring ways to avert ratings downgrades and boost economic growth.  The grouping was also tasked with launching a R1.5bn fund to support small and medium enterprises, which has also been delayed.  A pilot phase involving large companies as early adopters could be implemented in September.  Coleman said negotiations with the government about incentives for businesses were under way.

Consulting engineering jobs decline

Employment in the consulting engineering industry declined by 4% year-on-year in the second half of last year to an estimated 23,349 jobs.  However, the number of firms looking for engineers increased to 44.9% from 32% in the previous six months and 40% in the last six months of 2015, according to the latest biannual economic and capacity survey conducted by Consulting Engineers South Africa (Cesa).  The survey report said there was also a notable increase in demand for other technical staff to 72% in the second half of last year from 38% in the previous six months and 4% in December 2015.  The public sector remains the most important client to the industry.

LEGAL

Chamber of Mines heads to court to halt 2017 Mining Charter 

The Chamber of Mines says it will apply for an urgent interdict to stop the implementation of the newly released Mining Charter.  This came as the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) warned of a jobs bloodbath in the mining industry that would be exacerbated by the contentious charter.  The CCMA held a first of its kind forum with mining stakeholders, including the Department of Mineral Resources, in Magaliesburg on Thursday to analyse the state of the industry.  While speakers tried to steer clear of the charter released by Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane last Thursday, some projected that its consequences would be catastrophic.  The Chamber’s Elize Strydom said they planned to challenge the rationality of the charter among other legal issues they found problematic in it.  She also said the upward trend in jobs witnessed in the mining sector last quarter was likely to take a dive as the charter, if it succeeded, would put the industry under severe pressure.

SAHRC and KZN health department over oncology services

The SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) has found that the KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) Department of Health violated the rights of oncology patients when it failed to provide relevant services in the province’s two major hospitals.  In a statement on Thursday‚ the SAHRC said a complaint in February 2016 raised a number of challenges regarding the provision of services to oncology patients.  Among the complaints were that there were insufficient radiotherapy treatment devices and facilities in the province, that the radiotherapy machines at Addington Hospital were not working and that there was a lack of qualified staff such as oncologists.  In its reply‚ the provincial department said it was experiencing human resource constraints and did not have enough oncologists.  The SAHRC concluded that the department had not put in place “coherent plans that took into account the rights and experience of patients to maintain or improve the provision of specialised health services to patients in critical need”.

COMMUNITY AND SAFETY

Mines Minister Zwane ‘chased away’ from Mpumalanga community meeting

As part of his regional meetings to publicise the revised Mining Charter, Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane had to be whisked away from an angry crowd closing in on him at a community meeting in Mpumalanga on Friday.  The people attending the imbizo at the Sydney Choma Community Hall in Middelburg would not let him speak and the meeting degenerated into people shouting and booing at the minister.

Harmony’s Tshepong mine celebrates three million accident-free shifts

Harmony Gold exceeded three million accident-free shifts at its Tshepong mine on Saturday, 10 June 2017.  The mine described it as an extraordinary achievement in the gold mining industry.  Simphiwe Kubheka, regional manager at the Tshepong and Phakisa mines, noted that no fatalities have been experienced at Tshepong since 2012.

UNION POLITICS

Nehawu congress

Cosatu’s biggest affiliate, the National Health Education and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu), could emerge from next week’s elective congress in Boksburg bruised.  According to union sources, general secretary Bereng Soke’s position was set to be contested by his deputy, Zola Sapeta.  This despite the majority of the union’s provinces pronouncing in favour of maintaining the current leadership in the interest of unity and to forgo the ripple effects that would be caused by rifts within Nehawu.

Should the union follow the direction of some of Cosatu’s ailing unions that are dogged by infighting, the federation, which is only starting to rebuild after the internal battles that lost it Numsa and Fawu, will deteriorate.  Nehawu is the majority union in the public sector and 2017 is a critical year for workers as negotiations with government get under way in September.  The congress will discuss the union’s stance on wage hikes ahead of the finalisation of the Cosatu position by its joint mandating committee.

GENERAL

SA businessman appointed as Vice President of International Labour Organisation

South African businessman Mthunzi Mdwaba has been elected Vice-President of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Governing Body and will serve as its global spokesman for employers.  His election took place in Switzerland as part of ILO’s annual labour conference and it is the first time the tripartite organisation, representing 187 member states, will have an African as its employer spokesman.  Mdwaba currently also serves as the Chairperson of the Council of the University of the Western Cape.

Galane, Vantage extend date for signing of acquisition agreement covering Lily Mine

Galane Gold and Vantage Goldfields have agreed to extend to 26 June the date by which a binding acquisition agreement between the parties will be executed.  The miners in May signed a letter of intent agreeing that Galane would acquire all of Vantage’s outstanding shares with the intention of reshaping the company into a long-life and low-cost producer.  The package includes the beleaguered Lily mine, in Barberton, which remains closed after a container, with three employees inside, became trapped following a February 2016 crown pillar collapse.  Vantage’s Barbrook operations also remain suspended, owing to financial difficulties.  Earlier this month, Galane said it would issue $20-million to Lily mine business rescue practitioner Rob Devereux to resume rescue operations for the remains of the three employees at the mine, as well as pay workers their outstanding wages and resume operations.

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