DISPUTES AND INDUSTRIAL ACTION

Pretoria Zoo

The National Trade Union Congress (NTUC)‚ which represents about 120 general workers‚ has commenced protected strike action at the Pretoria Zoo in support of their demand that a work week agreed upon in 2009 be set aside. They are also demanding to be paid overtime for working on weekends. A Pretoria Zoo spokesperson said the demand was not financially viable as the establishment operated on a seven-day week programme and was a non-profit organisation.

SA National Taxi Council suspends 12 July taxi strike

Minibus taxi operators suspended plans to strike on 12 July, after talks earlier today (Sunday) with Transport Minister Mkhacani Maswanganyi.  The SA National Taxi Council (Santaco) wants licenses to be made indefinite, which will enable operators to obtain finance for their vehicles from banks at more favorable rates. In addition they complain that insurance rates are too high claiming that they pay the same rates as buses.

Tshwane security guards angry at ‘sell-out’ EFF

Security guards contracted to the City of Tshwane marched to the EFF offices in the city, accusing the party leaders of being sell-outs.  This was after they received the news that their demands to be employed permanently by the city had been turned down.  The jobs of more than 3,000 security guards are on the line as a result of the termination of the contracts of private security companies for which they worked.  Last week, the guards submitted a memorandum of grievances to city manager Moeketsi Mosola, giving him a three-day ultimatum to address their demands and objected to the city’s move to replace them with metro police officers.  Mosola responded in writing, telling them the city was not in a position to hire them “as it will be utilising its alternative methods of providing this service”.  Outside the EFF offices, the guards complained that the EFF leaders had let them down by allowing the “white DA” to decide their fate.

Mortuary strike

An agreement has been reached between striking mortuary workers (represented by the National Education Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) and the provincial department of health, bringing an end to three weeks of strike action. The reason for the strike was unhappiness that mortuary staff were being made to do work for which they were not adequately trained and claimed they were not being compensated for this. Amongst others, the staff claimed they were made to do post-mortem preparations which included the dissecting of bodies, removal of organs, stitching of bodies and the preparation of the organs for investigation.

The agreement would see staff being paid danger and special allowances, and perform work not in their job description, under supervision. The department will also implement a Recognition Prior Learning (RPL) programme that would assist the workers in getting their experience converted to a qualification.

ATKV’s Hartenbos resort strike

55 workers, all United Association of SA (Uasa) members, commenced a strike after claiming that the ATKV (owners of the resort) negated on an agreement reached at the CCMA..  At the CCMA, Uasa apparently agreed to a 6% wage increase as well as R160 extra per month per employee for transport and general expenses.  When the members got their increase letters, the amount of R160 had been reduced to R130.  The ATKV indicated that this was because its situation had since changed.

Numsa march on Transnet (Richards’ Bay)

Operations at the Transnet offices in Richards Bay were affected on Friday as a result of a protest march by the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa).  The apparent grievances of Numsa members are allegations of a sex-for-jobs scheme‚ corruption‚ health and safety violations, and labour brokers.  They are also calling for equal pay for equal work as contractors and permanent staff performed the same work for the same amount of hours‚ but permanent staff earned more than the contractors.  Numsa members caused chaos in early May when angry port workers used front-end loaders to flip over police vehicles and tear up roadside barriers at the Richards Bay Harbour.  Numsa Richards Bay local secretary Charles Mohlala said members would behave this time.

WAGE AND OTHER LABOUR NEGOTIATIONS

Metal and engineering wage negotiations (MEIBC)

Negotiations in the Metal and Engineering concluded on Thursday, 6 July 2017, without an agreement being reached. Employers tabled a revised offer in an attempt to resolve the wage dispute (certain employer groups within the Industry, including NEASA, did not support the revised offer), but the offer was rejected by all the participating trade unions.

Whilst some unions indicated a willingness to continue discussions, NUMSA rejected the offer outright and formally requested the issuing of a certificate of non-resolution. In the case of the Engineering Industry, the General Secretary of the Bargaining Council must issue the certificate but can only do so on instruction from the Council’s Management Committee. The Council’s Management Committee is only scheduled to meet on Friday, 21 July.

If a certificate is issued the unions must then give 48 hours’ notice of intention to embark on strike action or on the expiry of 30 days from the date of declaration of the dispute. The dispute was declared on 15 June and the 30 day period lapses on Saturday, 15 July 2017. Therefore strike action can only take place at the earliest on or after Tuesday, 18 July.

SEIFSA has already indicated to its employer members that upon receipt of a strike notice, it will immediately respond with a 48 hour notice of intended lock-out on behalf of all its Associations and member companies. SEIFSA also indicated that it would directly engage at a very senior level with the unions and other stakeholders in an effort to avert a strike in the industry.

Industrial chemical sector employers’ acceptance of facilitator’s proposal

The employers in the five subsectors (Explosives, Fertilizers, Base Chemicals, Speciality Chemicals and Surface Coatings) of the Industrial Chemicals Sector have indicated acceptance of the facilitator’s settlement proposal which amounts to a two year agreement with increases of 7,5% in the first year and CPI plus 1,9% in the second year. The unions have not indicated whether they would accept the proposal.

Sugar industry settlement

A strike in the sugar industry had been averted following the conclusion of an across the board wage agreement between the Sugar Industry Bargaining Council and the United Associations of South Africa (Uasa). The agreement provides for a 7.5% increase, to be implemented from 1 April. One outstanding matter (sick leave) was referred to the bargaining council for further discussion.

Home Affairs and three unions in talks on terms of Saturday work

Negotiations began last Tuesday between the Department of Home Affairs and three unions on the terms applicable to a new Saturday shift.  The unions — the Public Servants Association (PSA); the National Education Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) and the National Union of Public Service and Allied Workers (Nupsaw)  — convinced the General Public Service Bargaining Council to reverse the department’s decision compelling employees to work Saturday shifts.  Home Affairs director-general Mkuseli Apleni indicated that, while unions were looking for overtime compensation that was unsustainable.  Nehawu’s December Mavuso, said while the union was willing to negotiate, he was not willing to except Apleni’s claim that the department could not afford to pay overtime.

EMPLOYMENT AND LABOUR ECONOMICS MATTERS

AngloGold Ashanti retrenchments

Following AngloGold Ashanti’s (AGA) announcement of the possible retrenchment of 8,500 employees the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) announced it would oppose the planned retrenchments and will engage relevant government departments and the company in an effort to avoid job losses. In the meantime, Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane instructed the Minerals and Petroleum Board to verify whether the information provided by AGA motivating for the retrenchments took into consideration industry commitments to save jobs.

Also relating to the AGA announcement was the Young Communist League (YCL) in the North West province coming out very strongly against AngloGold Ashanti’s (AGA’s) chairperson, Sipho Pityana, over the impending loss of thousands of jobs, saying that the leader of ‘Save SA’ had failed to save jobs at the gold producer.

AGA’s planned closure of some mining operations is likely to leave neighbouring towns, businesses and communities in difficulty.  Kopanang Mine, which is near Orkney and Klerksdorp, once gave the surrounding areas a boom as most mineworkers bought their goods and services in the towns. Venesse Richards, chief executive of the Wesvaal Chamber of Business, indicated that the business chamber, together with the local municipality, had adopted a model that would ensure that the town (Klerksdorp) focused on agriculture, agro-processing, tourism and manufacturing.

Insourcing at Wits University

The University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) has had to institute some wide-ranging cuts in its operational budget to make provision for insourcing, while also staving off a deficit.  Vice-chancellor Adam Habib said that the university cut its budgets for professional and administration units 8% and for faculties 6%.  The university insourced more than 1,500 workers at the beginning of 2017, which was one of the demands of the student-led #FeesMustFall movement.  Habib confirmed that the university managed to steer clear of what would have been its first deficit in 11 years, largely by making budget cuts.  But this has had unpleasant implications for students and lecturers, who have had to do more with less. Student Representative Council president Kefentse Mkhari said many students did not have tutors because of the budget cuts.

Demand for South African engineers in Australia

Based on a report by BusinessTech, there is a large demand for engineers in Australia, with the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) offering higher than average starting salaries and job security for South Africans looking to make the move.  This is according to emigration consultants Sable international.  Australia has two visa streams in which engineers can apply, namely a Skilled Recognised Graduate Visa and a Skilled Independent visa.  According to Sable, civil engineers are in particularly high demand in Australia.  However engineering applicants in either visa stream can expect competitive salaries, usually determined by level of education and experience.

Johannesburg Stock Exchange retrenchments

Cost saving plans at JSE Limited, the company which operates the Johannesburg bourse, lead to a Section 189 Notice being served on employees which could lead to 14% (60 employees) of its staff being retrenched by the end of 2017.  The JSE plans to cut its overheads by R170m by 2019.  Besides retrenching staff, the JSE intends to meet its R170m cost-cutting goal by reducing its information technology costs by at least R70m over two years. The cost cutting is partly due to other competitors entering the market.

Drought impact on Western Cape fruit producing regions

The effect of the drought in the Western Cape could have a major impact on employment in the province’s fruit producing regions if conditions do not improve soon.  This is according to Terry Gale, the chairperson of Exporters Club Western Cape.  He stated:  “The Western Cape is sitting on a precipice in view of the prolonged drought, which is now affecting the pome fruit export, anticipated to be an average of 19% less for the apple and 10.5% less for the pear market than forecast.  This will have a major impact on employment in the fruit producing areas of Elgin/Grabouw and Ceres, where most of the fruit is grown and the farms provide employment for these communities.  The current forecast for the next seasons also appears to be a negative growth factor, unless the drought is broken and the farms become sustainable again.” 

Doctors quit public healthcare

Poor working conditions are seemingly the main reason doctors leave the public sector, while the safety and security of their families is the chief factor that drives them out of the country.  These are among the findings of a survey of 2,229 doctors by the Colleges of Medicine of SA.  “Better remuneration” was third, behind “better working environment” and “better workplace security”, when doctors were asked why they wanted to go into private practice, and it was second only to “no suitable posts” among the least important reasons for emigrating.

REMUNERATION AND EMPLOYEE BENEFITS

State’s Gems medical scheme back on track

The Government Employees Medical Scheme (Gems) has turned its finances around by tightening control of hospital admissions and introducing new rules for public servants who hop on and off the scheme as their healthcare needs wax and wane.  Gems, the biggest restricted medical scheme in SA, had 1.833-million beneficiaries at the end of 2016, providing cover to more than half (56.8%) of all eligible public servants.  It made headlines in August 2016 when it emerged its solvency ratio was plummeting as it grappled with an unexpected surge in costly hospital admissions.  Confronted with a situation in which monthly claims outstripped contributions, from October Gems imposed a three-month waiting period on members and their dependents returning to the scheme after a break and on dependents who joined after the principal member.  It also increased premiums for 2017 by 15% and introduced measures to combat hospital fraud and over-servicing.  These measures have borne fruit and Gems is set to make an operating surplus in 2017.  It is also set to meet the Council for Medical Schemes’ 8.2% solvency target.

Backlog of mineworkers’ lung diseases claims

Five years after CEO Barry Kistnasamy was appointed to turn around the Compensation Commission for Occupational Diseases (CCOD), the institution is still grappling with a huge claims backlog for mine workers with lung diseases.  It has only just begun to get its financial records in order.  At the last count, the fund had a backlog of 94,000 claims that had been approved by the Medical Bureau for Occupational Diseases (MBOD) but had yet to be paid out to workers.  This is a modest improvement on the backlog of 106,000 claims reported to Parliament nine months ago.  The MBOD assesses mine workers’ claims and determines whether they are eligible for a payout.  Kistnasamy commented that they have significant resource constraints with a decreased government subsidy, the loss of 22 technical officers and an outdated IT system.  Most of the results to date have only been possible through the significant interventions of the Chamber of Mines, the gold mining companies and social partners.

COMMUNITY

Interruptions on Richards Bay coal line

Transnet indicated on Thursday that it had experienced interruptions to its operations on the Richards Bay coal line as a result of violent community protests in certain areas of northern KwaZulu-Natal.  The protests related to community demands for jobs and business opportunities.

The Richard’s Bay coal line is the country’s dedicated railway line which handles SA’s coal exports by connecting the mines in Mpumalanga with the coal terminal at the port of Richards Bay.  The line also moves domestic commodities such as chrome, coke, chemicals and timber.

UNION POLITICS

Cosatu criticism of ANCWL male delegates

The Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) last Wednesday criticised the ANC Women’s League (ANCWL) for bringing six male delegates to the party’s policy conference, accusing the league of ”playing into the hands of patriarchy”.  ”We find it laughable that the ANC Women’s League could not find even six women amongst the thousands to articulate responsibly on the plight of women in present day South Africa,” the federation said in a statement.  When asked during an interview about why her organisation brought six men as part of the ANCWL delegation, its president Bathabile Dlamini reportedly said women ”were too emotional during debates and needed [male] experts” for sober discussions. 

Zuma supporters want ANC leaders to boycott Cosatu events

President Jacob Zuma’s supporters want ANC leaders to boycott future Cosatu events in retaliation for the federation’s decision to ban the president from addressing its meetings.  This tit-for-tat proposal was raised in commissions behind closed doors at the ruling party’s national policy conference taking place at Nasrec.  The move by Zuma’s backers could be seen as an attempt to prevent ANC deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa from addressing Cosatu events, which they see as a platform for his presidential campaign.  Cosatu banned Zuma from addressing its events following the federation’s decision that he should step down as president.  Zuma was embarrassed during a May Day rally in the Free State where workers booed him, leading to the event being called off.

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