DISPUTES AND INDUSTRIAL ACTION

10111 call centre operators back on strike

The SA Policing Union (Sapu) has confirmed that its members working at 10111 call centres is again on strike since Friday afternoon.  Their work stoppage was postponed for a few days, giving rival union, the Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (Popcru), time to decide whether it wanted to join a mediation process.  Popcru indicated on Friday afternoon that they are not willing to join the strike.  Call center operators are demanding better wages and fair labour practices, claiming that they are amongst the lowest earning government call centre agents, despite being the busiest.  Last week’s strike resulted in flying squad police officers being called in to man the phones at call centres.

Nehawu to brief the media on the NHLS strike

The National Education Health & Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) indicated that it was currently consulting its members on the offer tabled by the National Health Laboratory Services (NHLS) last Friday morning and would brief the media on the outcomes of that process on Monday.  In the meantime, strike action would continue.

SANParks strike

Members of the Health & Other Services Personnel Trade Union of SA (Hospersa) at South African National Parks (SANParks) are demanding a 7.7% increment across the board, while SANParks has offered 7.1%.  SANParks’ new offer was for a 6.1% salary increase and a 1% salary progression for qualifying employees.  The 1% pay progression is only for those employees who will be benefiting from the introduction of salary notches as a response to salary disparities.  Affected parks include the Kruger National Park, Agulhas National Park, Mokala National Park, Namaqua National Park, Mapungubwe National Park and the Kgalagadi Transfronteir Park. It appears that the union is seeking a settlement at 7,5%.

Mdantsane FM strike

Mdantsane FM workers in the Port Elizabeth area, have vowed to continue with their strike until the entire Mdantsane FM board comes to listen to their grievances.  Apparently only the board chairman, Bethwell Zulu, was present at a meeting between workers and management on Monday afternoon following a worker strike that erupted in the morning when the station fell silent.  The protest is over allegations of mismanagement of funds and non-transparency from management.

Samwu march in Pretoria

Traffic was disrupted in central Pretoria last Thursday as workers belonging to the SA Municipal Workers’ Union (Samwu) marched through the city.  The workers were accusing the City of Tshwane of changing their conditions of service on a daily basis without consultation.  They also claimed that the city was exposing them to unsafe working conditions.  The march started in Marabastad and was set to proceed to Tshwane House where workers were expected to hand over a memorandum of demands.

WAGE AND OTHER LABOUR NEGOTIATIONS

MEIBC (Steel and Engineering Industry)

As reported previously, the Bargaining Council’s Sub-Committee appointed to resolve the dispute declared by the trade unions on 15 June2017 concluded its deliberations on 6 July, without reaching an agreement. As a result SEIFSA in particular has been engaging directly with labour and other key stakeholders on its own.

No certificate or notice of strike action has been served and SEIFSA in particular remains confident that for as long as the parties are engaged in good-faith negotiations to deal with the few remaining issues on the negotiating table, strike action can be avoided.

EMPLOYMENT AND LABOUR ECONOMICS MATTERS

Unemployment

Momentum and Unisa conservatively estimate that a million more South Africans could be unemployed by the end of 2018.  The latest Unisa Household Financial Wellness index indicates declining GDP growth rates, increasing levels of unemployment, stagnating job creation and sky-high levels of income and wealth inequality for the rest of 2017, stretching into 2018.  The number of employed people grew from 14.1m in 2011 to 15.95m in 2016 and is expected to grow only marginally to 15.97m by the end of 2018.  At the same time the number of unemployed increased from 4.6m in 2011 to 5.9m in 2016 and will be about 7.2m at the end of 2018, which means that there will be about 1.3m more unemployed people at the end of 2018 compared to the end of 2016.  “The unemployment rate increased from 24.8% in 2011 to 27% in 2016 and could be as high as 31% by the end of 2018 should current economic, demographic and employment trends continue,” the statement from Unisa and Momentum reads.

ANN7 employees in pay problem

The latest decision by India’s Bank of Baroda to close the accounts of Gupta family-owned companies at the end of August has left employees at the Midrand-based ANN7 broadcaster with problems.  In a meeting held on Tuesday, management allegedly confirmed to employees of the station that the Bank of Baroda had joined SA’s four major banks in announcing its intention to terminate their business accounts by the end of August.  The management apparently asked employees to sign a petition, yet to be drafted, asking the Bank of Baroda to keep the family’s business accounts open for them to be able to transfer their salaries in future.

Minister Zwane approves Lonmin’s bid for Anglo’s Pandora stake

Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) Minister Mosebenzi Zwane has given platinum producer Lonmin the go-ahead to acquire Anglo American Platinum’s (Amplats’) 42.5% stake in the Pandora platinum joint venture (JV) operation.  This will save the 3,000 jobs that would have been lost had the operation been placed under care and maintenance.  Zwane granted consent for the cession of the right in terms of the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act.

SA’s average real take-home pay increases

Seasonally adjusted real take home pay of South Africans averaged R13,894 in June 2017, slightly higher than May’s average of R13,802.  This was shown by the latest BankservAfrica Economic Transaction Index (BETI) released last Wednesday.  South Africans’ real take-home pay increased by 1.3% in June – the highest increase in 15 months.  This was the fourth consecutive month it increased.  The BankservAfrica Disposable Salary Index (BDSI) indicated that slower inflation increases and faster nominal wage growth helped formal sector wage earners gain higher real increases.  As such, South African formal sector workers paid via the South African payments system are better off than a year ago.  Economist Mike Schüssler commented that disposable salary increases in nominal terms have not changed that much, but in real terms they are starting to change as inflation is coming down.  In his view, that is one of the reasons for better retail sales, although this shift has not been enough yet to get consumers to spend on again big ticket items like cars, televisions and property.

NUM: Stop mining rights moratorium now

The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) said on Wednesday that it was deeply concerned by the current consideration by Minister of Mineral Resources, Mosebenzi Zwane, of the putting in place a mineral rights moratorium.  The moratorium is intended to apply until the finalisation of court challenges of the Mining Charter III brought by the Chamber of Mines.  The union said such a moratorium would negatively impact its members through job losses, as there would be no ‘Section 11’ approvals relating to changes of ownership and new mining or prospecting rights.  “All of this is taking place while we are faced with enormous job losses in various operations amounting to close to 20,000 affected employees,” the union said.  The NUM stated that it would be submitting a request to the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) to desist from implementing the envisaged moratorium, with immediate effect, as the move would “definitely be found wanting by the court of law”.  The NUM said it was adamant the current impasse over the implementation of the Charter had reached alarming levels and it wanted an urgent meeting of all stakeholders to be convened in order to find an amicable solution.

REMUNERATION AND EMPLOYEE BENEFITS

Unclaimed benefits in miners’ retirement funds

Some R30bn lies unclaimed from the pension and provident funds of former miners who worked under apartheid but never received their money, according to Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi.  At the Smart Investments in Health conference in Johannesburg on Wednesday, Motsoaledi told delegates that the payment mechanisms for mining compensation and pension fund distribution had proved to be inefficient and that efficient systems were needed to standardise processes.

Motsoaledi indicated that only 6,500 people had been compensated to the value of R220m so far, with about R88m of that going to foreign nationals.  The money is due to 3.5-million workers in Southern Africa whom the health department says it is unable to trace.  Some had not left their addresses and could not be found, Motsoaledi indicated.  Mines compensation commissioner Dr Barry Kistnasamy said the unclaimed benefits were under a social protection fund.  “This problem goes back many years and these are large amounts of money that are due to workers,” he said.

POLITICAL

Dlamini-Zuma courts Numsa’s Irvin Jim

Seemingly in a bid to establish a working class support base, ANC presidential hopeful Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma has met the general secretary of former Cosatu affiliate, the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa).  Dlamini-Zuma met Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim recently to outline her vision for the country.  Her platform for election as ANC president has been “radical economic transformation” and some of the proposals her followers articulate resonate with long-standing Numsa policies.

These include land expropriation without compensation and the nationalisation of the SA Reserve Bank.  But, the meeting raised an uproar among some union members who were concerned that Jim could be pursuing personal ambitions by engaging with Dlamini-Zuma.  Some were concerned because allies of President Jacob Zuma, who are also backers of Dlamini-Zuma, were behind the push for Numsa’s expulsion from Cosatu in 2013.

LEGAL

Gold producers set aside substantial funds for lung disease settlement claims

South African mining firms, including Anglo American, are preparing a billion rand settlement with as many as 100,000 former workers who suffer from debilitating and deadly lung diseases caused by exposure to dust from working underground.  Anglo has set aside $101m (R1.3bn) in preparation for a potential settlement, while Gold Fields expects to pay about $30m (R388m) to end a class action lawsuit, the companies said in separate statements on Thursday.  AngloGold Ashanti, Sibanye Gold and Harmony Gold are among 32 respondents named in the suit, which would be the country’s biggest class action.  Richard Spoor, a lawyer representing claimants, indicated:  “Significant progress has been made towards a settlement, such that companies are feeling comfortable enough to quantify their liabilities.  It’s still a process but I’m fairly optimistic we will be able to conclude something within the course of this year.”  A settlement would bring an end to almost a decade-long fight to compensate the hundreds of thousands of mine workers who contracted silicosis.

LRA and Nedlac code of good practice key in determining status of Uber drivers

In determining that Uber drivers were not contractors but employees of Uber SA‚ the Commission for Conciliation‚ Mediation and Arbitration’s (CCMA’s) starting point was the Labour Relations Act (LRA).  The CCMA made a ruling on the status of eight Uber drivers earlier this month after the company raised a preliminary point that the CCMA had no jurisdiction to hear unfair dismissal disputes referred to the commission by the drivers.  The drivers had been “deactivated” by Uber‚ meaning they could not work for Uber, it was argued.  The starting point for Commissioner Winnie Everett’s analysis was Section 213 of the LRA.  Everett also relied on the “Code of Good Practice: Who is an Employee?”  The code was issued by the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) and sets out guidelines for determining whether persons are employees or not.  In her analysis‚ Everett found that Uber drivers were subject to the control of Uber.  She said this and other factors indicated the drivers were by no means independent or running their own transportation businesses.

UNION POLITICS

Numsa allegedly faces financial troubles

 According to a report in Business Day on Friday, the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) is facing a serious internal rebellion and its finances are alleged to be in disarray.  The union’s financial situation is apparently so bad it had to dip into its strike fund to pay salaries.  According to Numsa’s unaudited financial statements, the union has been operating on a deficit budget for the past two years, and owes SA Revenue Service (Sars) R20 million in unpaid tax dating back to 2011.  Numsa members have alleged that a R500m reserve fund established by the union’s former leadership has been raided.  The union’s general secretary, Irvin Jim, has also been accused of ruling with an iron fist, suspending and dismissing officials and leaders who question his decisions.  Relations between Jim and his deputy, Karl Cloete, are also said to be tense.  There are reports that the union might have to retrench some staff and its head office and regional offices might also have to be restructured.

Founder of “covert” union seeks settlement

In a David versus Goliath case, Thebe Maswabi, the founder of a “covert” union, has asked the High Court in Pretoria to enforce the R7m settlement agreement he reached with President Jacob Zuma. In the agreement, signed in April last year, Zuma and six government departments agreed to pay R7m from Maswabi’s R120m lawsuit claim. Maswabi claims he formed the Workers’ Association Union on Zuma’s instruction in 2014. Its sole purpose was to destabilise the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) after it unseated the ANC-aligned National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) in the platinum belt.

He was also tasked to work with state intelligence in spying on Amcu.

This was at a time of heightened tensions between the NUM and Amcu in their battle to control the platinum mines. Their rivalry had turned violent, leading to the deaths of more than 40 people in Marikana in the North West.

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