DISPUTES AND INDUSTRIAL ACTION

Possible national health laboratory strike

The National Health Laboratory Services (NHLS) gave assurances that it was working on contingency plans to ensure that pathology services were provided despite a looming wage strike.  This came as the health department convened a meeting on Tuesday to try and broker an agreement between the NHLS and the unions concerned on the wage issue.  The unions are demanding increases of between 7% and 13%, while the NHLS is offering 3%.  Some of the unions have already been granted a certificate to strike by the CCMA, but have yet to give notice to the NHLS.

Possible Gauteng Enterprise Propeller (GEP) strike

The office of Gauteng economic development MEC Lebogang Maile has urged employees of Gauteng Enterprise Propeller (GEP) not to resort to strike action as his office was open to engagements regarding their allegations about widespread maladministration and corruption in the entity.  This was after GEP employees handed a memorandum to the office of GEP CEO Leah Manenzhe, Maile and the Gauteng legislature on Tuesday containing allegations of widespread corruption in the entity.  GEP is tasked with growing small and medium enterprises and promote entrepreneurship development in the province. 

Armed guards may be deployed to protect Metrorail drivers in Cape Town

Armed guards could soon be deployed to protect Metrorail train drivers in Cape Town.  This is contained in a turnaround strategy presented to unions by Passenger Railway Agency of SA (Prasa) acting group CEO Lindikhaya Zide.  The rail operator is currently facing legal action from the United National Transport Union (Untu), which has taken it and Transport Minister Joe Maswanganyi to the Western Cape High Court.  The trade union is seeking an order to compel Prasa to ensure a safe working environment for employees following a series of attacks.  Untu general secretary Steve Harris has welcomed the plan as promising, but was also sceptical, saying:  “It’s no use that you have armed guards and they don’t know how to act or react under certain circumstances.”

WAGE AND OTHER LABOUR NEGOTIATIONS

Strike at 10111 crime call centre

Members of the SA Policing Union (Sapu) are continuing with their strike at the SA Police Service (SAPS) 10111 emergency call centres regarding the upgrading of positions.  Sapu is affiliated to the newly-formed SA Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu).  Union general secretary Oscar Skommere said the problems at the call centre dated back to 2013, when workers met with police management to address call centre salary levels, which were not the same as those at other government call centres.  A task team set up by the national commissioner recommended that the salary level at 10111 be upgraded to salary level 7, while a job evaluation completed around October 2016 also recommended salary level 7.  The current problem apparently started when the SAPS management backtracked and did not implement the recommendation.  After various interactions, which led to no progress, Sapu members at 10111 proceeded with strike action.

Employer fragmentation at MEIBC could see non-parties setting their own minimum wages

Some employer groups in the metals and engineering sectors think they have an iron-clad bargaining chip to get unions to sign up for an almost unprecedented lowering of prescribed entry-level wages.  That chip is the prospect of dropping wages to an even lower point, on a widespread scale, if no deal is reached.  Should that happen, it could spell the collapse of the Metal and Engineering Industries Bargaining Council (MEIBC).  For the same reason, long-standing demands that the sector’s wages differentiate between large and small employers seem to be a possibility this year.  The new dynamic is that the employer side of the MEIBC has fragmented, with only four employer groups now seated at the table.  A new deal will almost certainly require all the groups’ assent to be extended to the whole sector.  But, the National Employers’ Association of SA (Neasa) has spent the past few years fighting against MEIBC deals and their extension to the whole sector.  Now the SA Engineers’ and Founders’ Association (Saefa), the largest member of employer federation Seifsa, has broken away.  And another group, the Consolidated Employers’ Organisation, has grown large enough to claim its own seat at the table, changing the balance of negotiating power.  If there is no extension of the deal, all the non-parties would very likely set their entry-level wage at R20 an hour, being the imminent new national minimum wage.

Saefa claims that Numsa has no desire to avoid metal and engineering strike action

Responding to the National Union of Metalworkers of SA’s (Numsa’s) alleged intention to take industrial action to “shut down” the metal and engineering sector, the SA Engineers’ and Founders’ Association (Saefa) is of the opinion that the union has no desire to avoid strike action.  This is despite the significant financial repercussions a strike would have on the industry.  Saefa executive director Gordon Angus pointed out on Thursday that, while the other unions involved in the negotiations at least made attempts to counter the offers put on the table by employers, Numsa had not contributed to any of the discussions, choosing rather to stick resolutely to its initial demands of an “unrealistic” 15%.

EMPLOYMENT AND LABOUR ECONOMICS MATTERS

AngloGold Ashanti aims to retrench 8,500 miners

Gold producer AngloGold Ashanti (AGA) is going ahead with the retrenchment of 8,500 miners in three mines in the Free State and Gauteng.  The world’s third-largest gold miner in June announced that it intended to reduce its South African workforce by a third.  About 4,500 miners at Kopanang in the Free State and another 4,000 at Tautona and Savuka in Carletonville on the West Rand might soon be retrenched.  Unions have intervened, but they have little hope of saving the situation.  The company, which currently employs 28,000 people, said the situation was untenable as the affected mines have been making unsustainable losses.

African Bank calls off retrenchments

African Bank announced on Thursday that it has decided to discontinue its Section 189A consultation process because of the response it had received to its offer of voluntary severance and retirement packages.  The bank said it had reached an agreement with finance union Sasbo, which has been representing workers who were to be retrenched.  In a bid to cut costs, the bank had in May issued notices to its staff about its restructuring plan that would have seen as many as 652 employees getting retrenched – about a sixth of the staff complement of 4,075.  As a result of the high number of workers accepting voluntary severance and retirement package, the bank said it no longer needed to continue with the retrenchment phase.

REMUNERATION AND EMPLOYEE BENEFITS

Pick n Pay executive bonuses cancelled

Pick n Pay’s remuneration committee may have set the scene for a tougher approach to executive rewards in the besieged retail sector with its decision not to pay short-term bonuses for the year to end-February 2017.  The decision is based on poor turnover growth and failure to meet working capital targets.  For financial 2016, CEO Richard Brasher received a short-term annual bonus of R15m, taking his remuneration to R24.4m.  For 2017, Brasher received remuneration of R10m and no bonus.  Executive director Richard van Rensburg’s pay dropped from R7.1m to R4.7m, while finance director Bakar Jakoet’s fell from R6.6m to R4.8m.  The group’s 2017 annual report shows that, while none of the senior executives received a bonus, discretionary bonuses were paid to key staff at lower management levels.

Cosatu angered that implementation of UIF benefit improvements delayed due to typos

Cosatu is angry about the further delay in the implementation of amendments to the Unemployment Insurance Act, caused by two typing mistakes in the version signed by President Jacob Zuma in January.  These mistakes, said the labour federation’s Matthew Parks, meant the act would have to be sent back to Parliament for corrections.  Yet the government apparently cannot say when this will happen.  The amendments have been in the pipeline since 2011 and were passed by Parliament in December last year.  The amendments increased Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) benefits from 238 to 365 days; increased maternity leave benefits by 66%; covered workers who lost working hours due to reduced time at their workplace; and included public servants in the scheme.

SABC wants R11.4m ‘bonus’ reversal from Motsoeneng

The SA Broadcasting Corporation’s (SABC’s) interim board is clawing back millions of rands paid to disgraced former COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng.  It plans to sue Motsoeneng for the return of a R11.4-million bonus he received in 2016.  The bonus was linked to a deal that granted MultiChoice access to the public broadcaster’s archives – without the authorisation of the then board.  Motsoeneng’s bonus on this deal was R33-million, to be paid out over three years.  The R11.4-million was the first portion and was paid in August last year.  The matter has also been handed over to the Special Investigating Unit with a view to the possible laying of criminal charges.  In addition, Motsoeneng could be asked to repay funds he irregularly made available to the ‘SABC Thank You’ concert held in Orlando.  Meantime, Motsoeneng has since gone to the CCMA in an attempt to overturn his dismissal in June.

SABC allegedly offered Tokiso R5,000 per guilty verdict in medical aid fraud cases

A SA Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) internal document details how the public broadcaster offered Tokiso Dispute Settlement R5,000 for each guilty verdict delivered in disciplinary cases against 138 SABC employees accused of medical aid fraud.  Unions representing the implicated workers have used this document as proof that the SABC had denied its employees a fair hearing, having “premeditated or plotted” to dismiss them en masse irrespective of the truth.  An SABC attorney is cited in the same document as having advised that if the dismissals were challenged at the CCMA, the “SABC would be wise in directing it to the labour court”.  This was done and the cases are currently still at the court with no progress.  The Media Workers’ Association of SA (Mwasa) introduced the leaked document to the CCMA proceedings in support of its argument that the SABC flouted the rules for guilty verdicts and dismissal of staff.  The Broadcasting, Electronic, Media and Allied Workers’ Union’s Hannes du Boisson said they were convinced that “the hearings were rigged by Tokiso” and that the dismissals were “premeditated”.

POLITICAL

Nehawu wants to clip Social Development Minister’s Sassa wings

The National Education Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) wants Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini’s powers over the SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) to be curtailed.  This comes days after Thokozani Magwaza’s tenure as Sassa chief executive came to an end, following death threats and allegations he had been pressured to quit while negotiating a partnership with the SA Post Office on the distribution of social grants next year.  

Nehawu spokesperson Khaya Xaba said on Thursday that Dlamini was “hell-bent on destabilising the social development sector through her interference with the day-to-day management of operations.  This situation has spread to the National Development Agency (NDA), which is on the brink of collapse.”  Xaba said the union was calling on Parliament to amend the Social Security Act to strengthen governance at Sassa.

LEGAL

Decision over who is employer of workers supplied by labour brokers goes ConCourt

Labour brokers will have at least another year’s grace before the contentious “deeming” provision, which was introduced into labour law at the beginning of 2015, potentially shuts down a large part of their industry.  A ruling by the Labour Appeal Court (LAC) last week struck down an influential 2015 labour court judgment by acting Judge Martin Brassey on the deeming question.  The LAC found that companies that use labour brokers were the sole “employer” of labour supplied (after three months’ employment) rather than that labour brokers and their clients were dual employers.  

Craig Kirchmann for the Confederation of Associations in the Private Employment Sector indicated that an appeal to the Constitutional Court (ConCourt) was already being prepared.  Most importantly, merely filing this appeal would suspend last week’s judgment for at least another year.  Yet, Ruth Edmonds, attorney for the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa), was more optimistic, saying it would likely be six months.  The potential fallout of an eventual ConCourt ruling against dual employer status would probably be a culling of temporary employment service companies.

UNION POLITICS

Saftu ‘on track to subscribe a million members by December’

Zwelinzima Vavi, general secretary of the South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu), says the federation is on track to subscribe a million members by December.  Speaking in Mdantsane in the Eastern Cape, he said the leadership was crisscrossing the country targeting workers who were not unionised.  “We will increase the membership of Saftu by a million every year until we’ve done what we said we will do and that is reaching out to the 76% of workers who are outside unions,” Vavi claimed.  Saftu on Saturday held a feedback rally in Polokwane.

Gupta associates ‘fleeced’ Cosatu in headquarters deal

The amaBhungane Centre for Investigative Journalism writes that evidence suggests an influential Gupta associate and a future Eskom acting CEO colluded in a deal that fleeced trade union federation Cosatu of millions.  The #Guptaleaks have shone light on the role former acting Eskom chief executive Collin Matjila played in facilitating the Guptas’ access to the state-owned electricity company.  Now it has been revealed that Matjila was already entangled with Gupta lieutenant Salim Essa in an earlier scandal in 2011 that appears to have ripped off Cosatu and helped force out its general secretary, Zwelinzima Vavi.  Matjila, at that time in charge of Cosatu investment arm Kopano ke Matla, was tasked with securing a new Joburg headquarters for the federation and selling the old Cosatu House.  In summary, evidence suggests that Matjila, together with Essa, engineered twin transactions that fleeced the union by: (1) choosing a building secured by a middleman well-known to Essa, which was then sold to Cosatu at an inflated price, earning the middleman an instant R17-million profit thanks to a back-to-back transfer, and (2) arranging for the cost to Cosatu to be offset by the sale of the old Cosatu House, which was then sold to the same middleman at a fire sale price, netting him millions more in value.

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