DISPUTES AND INDUSTRIAL ACTION

Strike at national parks

The Health and Other Service Personnel Trade Union of SA (Hospersa) announced that it has filed a notice to strike at all national parks across the country as from Monday after CCMA intervention failed.  They are demanding a 9% wage increase, while the parks’ management is offering 7%.

KZN nurses payment of uniform allowances

Nurses in various KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) public hospitals boycotted uniforms and rather worked in “civvies” after the health department’s failure to pay their uniform allowances on time.  The allowance should have been paid in April but was not because of an administrative bungle.  The department made a verbal commitment last week to pay the allowance by the end of July.  The Democratic Nursing Organisation of SA (Denosa) confirmed that they did not accept the department’s verbal undertaking.

Tshwane City guards

Mass protest by more than 3,000 private security guards could descend on the City of Tshwane on Monday after contracts with their companies were terminated by Democratic Alliance (DA) mayor Solly Msimanga.  Security guards whose jobs are on the line have vowed to protest until they are hired permanently. The Academic & Professional Staff Association (Apsa) representing the guards has endorsed the strike, saying that about 3,000 would be left jobless.  The SA Municipal Workers’ Union (Samwu) was warned that its members in the metro police will be asked not to cooperate, saying:  “All metro police officers already deployed will be recalled to their previous functions until the matter is finalised.”  Last week, Msimanga indicated that the city would use the services of metro police to save money.

Saturday work at Home Affairs

The National Union of Public Service and Allied Workers (Nupsaw) released a statement saying that until the department was “ready to pay overtime, the employer’s status quo of voluntary work on Saturdays remains”.  In this long-standing dispute that dates back to March 2015, the DHA claims it’s not in a financial position to pay overtime and has proposed that officials be granted a day off on Wednesdays to ensure that they do not work a six day week.  The unions – Nupsaw, the Public Servants Association (PSA) and the National Education Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) – have all rejected the offer.  According to the DHA, negotiations with the unions are still ongoing this week.

Pretoria Zoo strike

The National Zoological Gardens in Pretoria has hired casual workers to keep the facility running smoothly amid a strike by its employees.  Workers affiliated to the National Trade Union Congress (NTUC) are demanding higher pay for working weekends.  Non-striking employees have apparently been intimidated and one was assaulted last Tuesday.

WAGE AND OTHER LABOUR NEGOTIATIONS

Metal and engineering wage negotiations (MEIBC)

The following developments occurred during the week after employers and unions failed to reach agreement on wages (employers offered 5,4% and the unions’ demands are at 10 to 12%):

  • Employer organisations are negotiating directly with workers. The decision not to continue negotiating collectively exposes the disjuncture between big businesses, represented by Seifsa, and smaller enterprises (SMMEs), represented by Neasa.  Seifsa said it would hold bilateral meetings with unions to do “everything possible” to avoid a strike.  But, Neasa has warned that it saw no ending to negotiations other than industrial action because trade union Numsa was negotiating in bad faith and “hell-bent” on strike action.
  • The United Association of SA (Uasa) indicated that it has reached agreement with some companies that had approached labour individually, outside of employer bodies.
  • The SA Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) urged its members and “all other workers” to throw their weight behind the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa),
  • The SA Engineers’ and Founders’ Association (Saefa) believes that the planned strikes by trade unions within the metal and engineering sector were not the only option available to workers.  The association said although the unions had applied for a certificate to embark on a strike, this did not necessarily mean the strike was inevitable.  At its expense, Saefa has appointed Jonathan Goldberg, a veteran of industry-level negotiations over wages and conditions of employment, as an independent lead negotiator to represent employers in the wage negotiations.  Angus said this was a clear indication that the association and the more than 400 businesses it represented had a sincere desire to reach a solution that would prevent a strike.
  • Trade union Solidarity announced on Thursday that it too would pursue bilateral talks with employer organisations in the metals and engineering sector in a bid to break a three-week deadlock in wage negotiations.  A three-pronged strategy would be pursued, starting with a request that the MEIBC extend negotiations.  Should this approach fail, Solidarity would approach the CCMA to intervene.  Thirdly, the union might pursue direct talks with those small- and medium-sized enterprises that have expressed concern over their ongoing sustainability should a strike be called.

Industrial Chemical Sector

As reported last week, 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 however, have not indicated whether they would accept the proposal and have requested an extension of the time allowed to respond.

Nehawu on strike at Agricultural Research Centre

At least 1,500 members of the National Education Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) have embarked on a strike after wage talks deadlocked with management at the Agricultural Research Centre in Pretoria.  In the negotiations that started in April, the union is demanding a 7.3% wage increase, while management is offering 5%.

EMPLOYMENT AND LABOUR ECONOMICS MATTERS

Labour Appeal Court upholds rights of labour brokerage workers to become permanent

Employees hired via labour brokerage firms will be entitled to benefits if they remain employed by a company for more than three months‚ the Labour Appeal Court has ruled.  Judge Pule Tlaletsi ruled this week that employees of a labour broker become permanent employees of the client company after three months of working there.  This judgment overturns a previous judgment handed down in 2015 that labour brokers and client companies were dual employers.  The judgment came as a result of a case involving the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa), Assign Services‚ Krost Shelving and Racking, and the Commission for Conciliation‚ Mediation and Arbitration.  Assign Services supplied workers to Krost‚ many of whom worked for the company for more than three months.

Uber to go to court to set aside CCMA ruling that ‘driver partners’ are employees

Uber will be challenging this week’s ruling by the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) that seven deactivated drivers of the app-based service are employees and not “driver partners”.  The ruling was based on the fact that the company could deactivate the drivers’ access to the app.  The ruling was welcomed by a drivers’ lobby group called ‘The Movement’, but Uber said on Tuesday that it would seek a review of the ruling in the Labour Court.

Retrenchments at Rolfes Silica

CCMA facilitation commenced last week in the retrenchment of the workforce (about 70 employees) at Rolfes Silica in Brits following a decision by the Company to close the operation due to it being unsustainable.

REMUNERATION AND EMPLOYEE BENEFITS

ANC gives nod to proposal that NHI be funded by stopping medical aid tax rebates

The ANC confirmed on Monday that it supported the policy proposal put forward by Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi to use money allocated for tax rebates to South Africans on medical aid to fund National Health Insurance (NHI).  Naledi Pandor, chairwoman of the subcommittee on education, health, science and technology of the ANC national executive committee, made the pronouncement following the governing party’s policy conference last week.  

Pandor said that the medical aid tax rebates amounted to about R20bn.  The tax rebate was not an additional tax, but money taxpayers were able to claim back, Pandor indicated.  The possibility of stopping these rebates was raised in the recent NHI white paper.  Pandor also said there was consensus that NHI should remain a government priority.

SAFETY

Harmony Gold achieves fatality-free quarter

Based on a report in Mining Weekly, JSE-listed Harmony Gold’s South Africa and Papua New Guinea operations achieved a milestone fatality-free quarter in the June 2017 quarter.

POLITICAL

Finance Minister Gigaba’s 14-point plan and the Mining Charter

The Finance Minister unveiled a 14-point plan on Thursday to restore confidence in the economy that also called for the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) and the Chamber of Mines (COM) to come back to the table and try to resolve the impasse over the Mining Charter.  He revealed that he had met with the COM earlier in the week to try and understand what was going on and he gave a commitment to try to assist in facilitating discussions.

COM chief executive Roger Baxter confirmed that it was a cordial and “well-intentioned” meeting, but said the engagement was probably too late.  He pointed out that the COM had initiated three separate legal proceedings to suspend and review the Charter.  One of the other points Minister Gigaba raised as a priority was the finalisation of the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act (MPRDA) Amendment Bill.

LEGAL

ConCourt confirms eviction of axed workers from brick-making firm’s houses

The Constitutional Court (ConCourt) confirmed an eviction order against a group of former employees of Claytile who have been living on the firm’s land for free for the past five years.  Claytile argued that the houses they were occupying were needed for current employees.

ConCourt confirms eviction of axed workers from brick-making firm’s houses

The Constitutional Court (ConCourt) confirmed an eviction order against a group of former employees of Claytile who have been living on the firm’s land for free for the past five years.  Claytile argued that the houses they were occupying were needed for current employees.

UNION POLITICS

Vavi urges Rustenburg mineworkers to join Numsa

SA Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi last Sunday urged mineworkers in Rustenburg to join the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa).  “Workers resigning from [the] National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) resigned into nothing.  Every mineworker in Rustenburg must join Numsa,” Vavi told a Saftu rally in Rustenburg.  He said they had learnt from previous mistakes made by Cosatu and added that they were starting on a new journey based on certain principles.  Vavi also said shop stewards should be well trained to be able to represent workers.  He furthermore announced that Saftu would be marching to the Union Buildings in Pretoria in November to demand that government “take control of the mines”.  This would be “with or without Amcu”.

Samwu faction distances itself from members who took Joburg city executive hostage

A faction of the SA Municipal Workers’ Union (Samwu) has distanced itself from members who held a Joburg council executive hostage on Wednesday.  A Samwu statement said the incident was sparked after city officials encouraged union members to withhold their subscriptions until a court had ruled on who the rightful Samwu leadership was.  The statement, bearing the names of Samwu’s Esther Mtatyana‚ Lindiwe Mazibuko and Phaneul Chikovha, indicated:  “Yesterday afternoon‚ a group of criminal elements purporting to be representatives of Samwu members in Joburg held hostage (an executive) of GED Corporate Services demanding payment of members’ subscriptions to their bank account.”  It went on to claim that the faction was “imposed by the faction of Pule Molalenyane to be regional leaders in Joburg without following Samwu constitution hence the court case.”  It was reported last month that the council had been dealing with two Samwu factions on labour matters.

Vavi declines invite to SACP congress

Zwelinzima Vavi, general secretary of the SA Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu), has declined an invitation by the SA Communist Party (SACP) to the party’s national congress.  The SACP invited Vavi and the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) to its 14th national congress‚ as it eyes contesting elections independently of its ally‚ the ANC.  But in an open letter to the party, Vavi said he could not forgive the party’s involvement in Cosatu’s split.  The party played an integral role in the expulsion of Vavi and Numsa from Cosatu at the end of 2014.  Vavi and Numsa have gone on to form a new federation‚ Saftu‚ and are in the process of setting up a workers’ party to contest future elections.  Vavi also wrote that members of Saftu were “disbelieving and sceptical” of the SACP leadership.  He indicated that Saftu would only accept an invitation from the SACP when it “decisively and publicly breaks with politics of positioning‚ patronage and class collaboration”.

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