DISPUTES AND INDUSTRIAL ACTION

10111 call centre operators back on strike

Employees at the 10111 emergency call-centre are going ahead with their strike after not reaching an agreement with management on CCMA mediation regarding salary increases recommended by a task team set up by suspended police commissioner Riah Phiyega in 2013.  The SA Policing Union (Sapu) and the SA Police Service (SAPS) had previously agreed to CCMA mediation, resulting in the strike being temporarily postponed.  Sapu accused SAPS management of delaying the speedy resolution of this issue by rejecting any proposal tabled by the CCMA commissioner.  The union said if no progress has been made by 11 August, it would call for unions under the SA Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) to stand in solidarity with it.

OR Tambo: Go-slow by SAA technical crew

Officials at OR Tambo International Airport are closely monitoring a possible go-slow by technical crew at South Africa Airways (SAA).  The workers involved are affiliated to the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa).  Numsa confirmed that some of their members have indicated that they will be embarking on a go-slow on Friday. The reason for the go-slow is not known.

SANParks strike

SANParks confirmed that all their employees who embarked on strike action regarding salary increases, are back at work. These employees were members of the Health and Other Service Personnel Trade Union of South Africa (Hospersa).

CPUT agrees to insource workers

Following a week of student-worker protests that resulted in a two-day shutdown, Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) agreed to insource security guards and cleaning staff.  The workers signed pre-contracts on 31 July which stated that they would be permanent employees of CPUT as of 1 January 2018.  The pre-contract also stated that finalised contracts would be given to the workers by 31 August and their pay slips would be available on 25 August.  At present, salaries are apparently paid directly into accounts without pay slips.  The University Council also committed to monitoring the insourcing process more regularly.

Coloured teachers at 28 Johannesburg schools in go-slow

Thousands of Johannesburg pupils did not have classes in 28 schools on Monday as the racial storm over the appointment of a black principal at a Coloured school (Klipspruit West Secondary School) continued.  Coloured teachers in the south of Johannesburg embarked on a go-slow in solidarity with parents of the school who had shut down the school last week demanding that a coloured or Indian be appointed head of the school.  The group of parents from the mostly coloured area locked the gates and prevented learners from entering the school in protest against the new appointment.  Gauteng MEC for Education, Panyaza Lesufi, condemned the go-slow as all the concerned parties were working to resolve the impasse.

WAGE AND OTHER LABOUR NEGOTIATIONS

Strike in metals and engineering sector may be averted

A potential strike in the metal and engineering industries sector seems to have been averted, with trade unions and employers said to be edging closer to a deal.  The majority of the employers in the sector and all trade unions met on Thursday to finalise details of a proposed settlement agreement that could see negotiations come to an end by end of this week.  But, Gerhard Papenfus, CEO of the National Employers Association of SA (Neasa), which has refrained from taking part in the current wage talks, said the agreement would be a “futile exercise” and indicated that the association would fight attempts for it to be extended to his members.

Chemical industry

Agreement is still elusive with CEPPWAWU indicating that it is not willing to accept the proposal made by the facilitator in the process (which was accepted by employers). Instead it is proposing a one-year deal with increases of 7,5%. The union also indicated that if their demand is not accepted then a certificate of non-resolution must be issued. The other unions have not yet responded.

Nehawu and NHLS reach deal to end strike

The National Health Laboratory Services (NHLS) and the National Education Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) brokered a deal following a two-week strike.  Nehawu’s spokesperson Khaya Xaba said the NHLS and the union agreed on a 7.3% wage increase (their demand was for 14%) and the phasing out of outsourcing.

SAA faces a wage increase protest

The National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) and the SA Cabin Crew Association (Sacca) marched to South African Airways (SAA) last Friday over a request for pay increases.  This coincides with the state-owned airline revealing that it has run out of cash, meaning the employees might not even get their basic salaries.  “SAA is … refusing to increase wages for the majority of workers, including the cabin crew, ground staff, cargo staff, and technical staff, but it is willing to continue paying out generous packages to the pilots, who are mostly white and male,” Numsa and Sacca said in a statement on Thursday.  Numsa has lodged a dispute through the CCMA and mediation on these and other issues will apparently take place soon.

SA Bank Note Company on strike

The effect of the current strike at the South African Bank Note Company, which produces notes for the SA Reserve Bank (SARB), will not be felt immediately since money is printed ahead of time. The strikers indicated that workers in the canteen and printing departments were unhappy about wage increases and their medical aid subsidy.  As such, the printing machines and tea services had come to a standstill, leaving the SARB with about a month’s worth of money to feed into the economy.

EMPLOYMENT AND LABOUR ECONOMICS MATTERS

21,000 mining jobs potentially in danger

The announcement by Sibanye Gold this week that it would be restructuring its Cooke and Beatrix West operations, potentially affecting 7,500 workers or roughly 13% of its workforce, added to the potential job losses in the mining industry, pushing it to a theoretical figure of 21,000. The other recent job loss announcements in mining were:

  • AngloGold Ashanti said it intended to cut up to 8,500 jobs with a proposed closure of its Tau Tona and Kopanang mines.
  • Royal Bafokeng Platinum said it would restructure a shaft at its Bafokeng Rasimone Platinum Mine affecting 636 employees of which the employment of 520 would be terminated.
  • Another platinum producer, Atlatsa Resources, said it would be mothballing its Bokoni Platinum Mine affecting 3,651 workers.
  • An undisclosed number of employees would be affected by the restructuring of Platinum Group Metals’ (PGM’s) Maseve mine.

Land Bank helps create 15,000 jobs

The Land and Agricultural Development Bank of SA announced that it had created 15,000 jobs in the agricultural sector in the year to March by providing finance for emerging farmers. The bank also reported a 10% rise in net interest income to R1.3 billion for the year, while net profit rose 13% to R347m.  The strong performance came against subdued conditions in the agricultural industry, which included the worst drought in a century and a contracting economy marred by volatile exchange rates affecting commodity prices.  Land Bank chief executive Petrus Nchocho said:  “We are happy 15,000 jobs in the agricultural sector were created through our involvement.  However, overall we had set aside an R4.8bn loan disbursement for the period and R2bn went to emerging farmers.”  The bank achieved some notable highlights during the year, including supporting farmers impacted by the drought with at least R100m under its Drought Relief Programme.  It also increased support to female farmers, with 262 loans of R161m now on its books.

Nedbank reduced almost 500 retail banking staff over past year

Nedbank reduced the number of staff employed in its retail and business banking (RBB) segment by nearly 500 over the past year, with most of this reduction happening in the first six months of 2016.  In percentage terms, this reduction was modest at 2.3% of total headcount in the division (now 20,910).  This “headcount optimisation”, as the bank terms it, has not required a formal section 189 (retrenchment) process.  Instead, it is primarily being achieved through natural attrition, which the bank says runs at about 10% per annum.  In other words, certain newly-vacated roles are simply not being replaced.  The jobs are being lost against the backdrop of increased digitization, which is driving more self-service from customers.  Teller activity, for example, is down 6% from the same period last year.  The amount of self-service deposits as a percentage of the total has more than doubled in the past two years.

Prasa to employ 1,500 people


The Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa) has announced that about 1,500 people will be permanently employed at its R1-billion local train manufacturing plant at Dunnottar Park, in the City of Ekurhuleni.  Construction of the plant, which will also consist of a training centre and a supplier park that will house suppliers who will manufacture various train components, is now in its final stages.  Following receipt from Brazil of the last of the 20 trains which were manufactured outside of SA, Prasa is now gearing up to manufacture the remaining 580 trains locally, which will bring the total number of new Metrorail trains to 600 over the next 10 years.  Of the total number of people to be employed, 99% would be South Africans.  The company has also prioritised historically disadvantaged individuals, who will make up a total of 85% of the employees, with 25% of those being women.

 

Merger talks re Lily Mine

Australian mining company Vantage Goldfields is involved in merger talks with the Canadian-listed Galane Gold in a bid to reopen the Lily Mine in Barberton, Mpumalanga  Three mine workers remain missing after being trapped underground in a container at the mine.  Business rescue practitioner Rob Devereux indicated on Wednesday that documents for the merger were “just about signed”, which would pave the way for the embattled mine to resume operations.  Once the merger is concluded, Galane would have 100 days to raise R200m through a placement on the Toronto Stock Exchange.  The funds are expected to flow in October, with R130m to be allocated for the development of the mine, and the balance to be used to pay creditors and the outstanding salaries of employees.  Vantage owns Lily and the Barbrook Mine, which were mothballed and placed in business rescue after they ran into financial difficulties in 2016.  Lily Mine has honoured its commitments to the families of the three missing mineworkers, Yvonne Mnisi, Pretty Mabuza and Solomon Nyarenda, after they received R200,000 each.

IDC funding results in 18,206 new jobs and preservation of another 2,675 jobs

A total of 18,206 new jobs are expected to be created and a further 2,675 jobs that would otherwise have been lost retained as a result of financing approvals in the year to March by the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC).  CE Geoffrey Qhena said that supporting the creation of black industrialists remained a strategic imperative for the state-owned development finance institution.  Approvals for the programme increased 68% in the year to March to R4.7bn in 83 transactions, while youth-empowered and youth-owned businesses increased 137% to R2.3bn in 52 transactions.  Support for women-empowered businesses almost tripled to R3.2bn from R1.1bn.  Qhena also said the process to conclude the restructuring of the Scaw Group was being finalised and was expected to result in the introduction of strategic equity partners for its main operating divisions.

ANC: Quotas on employment of foreign nationals required

The African National Congress (ANC) wants government to consider imposing quotas of the number of foreign nationals that companies in different sectors can employ.  The party’s national executive committee (NEC) decided in its lekgotla over the weekend that local people should not be losing jobs to foreign nationals.  The NEC’s proposal is that companies in different sectors should be given ratios of the number of foreign people they can hire.

REMUNERATION AND EMPLOYEE BENEFITS

Annuitisation of provident fund benefits postponed again

Changes to the tax treatment of provident funds, introduced as part of broader retirement reforms in 2015 by National Treasury, have once again been postponed for further consultation.  In terms of the proposed reforms, provident funds would be treated the same as pension and retirement annuity funds requiring the annuitisation of benefits.  This has been met with resistance, specifically from trade unions.  The change would mean that on retirement members of provident funds would only be permitted to take up to a third of the retirement benefit as a lump sum and the remaining benefits should be preserved.  But this would only be for contributions made after the implementation date.  The initial date for implementation was March 2016, which was postponed to March 2018 and will now most probably only be March 2019.  The unions want to firstly understand how annuitisation will fit into the entire social security reform package, but discussions on this at Nedlac are still at a very early stage.

Criticism for plan to consolidate or dissolve medical schemes with under 6,000 members

The plan by the Council for Medical Scheme (CSM) to consolidate or dissolve small medical schemes posed huge risks to the people who belonged to them and might force some to drop their cover entirely, industry sources warned this week.  They also predicted that the move was likely to be met with legal and constitutional challenges.  More than 228,000 people belonged to 31 medical schemes that had less than 6,000 members at the end of December 2015.  All but three of them were restricted employer groups, and all were in sound financial health.  Restricted employer group schemes generally subsidise members on low incomes, including pensioners, enabling them to buy cover they could not afford on the open market.  The decision to consolidate the industry is in line with the government’s White Paper on National Health Insurance (NHI), published in June.  Consolidation of the industry was necessary because fragmented risk pools were expensive, and limited the scope for cross-subsidisation, explained CMS acting registrar Sipho Kabane.

POLITICAL

ANC slaps Zwane down on Mining Charter

The ANC has extended an olive branch to the mining sector, thereby criticising Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) Minister Mosebenzi Zwane as the battle over the contentious reviewed Mining Charter continues to simmer.  The party is scrambling to arrest the continued slide in the economy, and last weekend spent yet another three-day lekgotla focusing on stimulating growth.  Zwane recently released the third version of the Mining Charter after very little consultation, which angered the industry and resulted in legal action against the DMR.  Addressing journalists on Monday after the policy conference, Mantashe said:  “We must deal with the industry … not in a way that appears to be punitive.  Mining is not a short-term sector … it is a long-term sector … we must create an environment for that industry to perform.”  Part of this approach would be to finalise the Charter as well as the Mineral Petroleum and Resources Development Act.  The ANC’s lekgotla also agreed that sections of the Charter had to be reworked.  Mantashe denied that this undermined Zwane.

Chamber and NUM fearing 100,000 direct jobs at risk

The Chamber of Mines of SA said on Monday that as many as 100,000 direct and 200,000 indirect jobs could be at risk in the short to medium-term in the local mining sector owing to a deterioration in regulatory and operating conditions.  These encompassed decreased productivity and inappropriate work stoppages.  Responding to a press statement by the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), which called on the ANC to denounce job losses in the sector, the Chamber said the redraft of the Mining Charter could heap further pain on the sector.  The NUM blamed the private sector for maximising profit-taking over workers following announcements of some 8,500 potential job losses at AngloGold Ashanti and 2,651 at Bokoni Platinum Mines.  The Chamber said, however, the mining sector had not been supported.  The NUM also called for the resignation of Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane.  NUM president Piet Matosa said to City Press:  “We really feel the man is not for the industry.  We will consider joining hands with those that are not happy with him … We are really about to ask the ANC and the president to remove him if he won’t resign himself.”

LEGAL

Marikana lawyers, government working on compensation

Discussions to compensate Marikana mineworkers were continuing with the State, their lawyer indicated on Monday.  “We are busy in discussions with the State in relation to quantifying our claims.  The State has conceded that they are going to make [the] payments, all we need to do is to differentiate the extent of compensations vis-à-vis the extent of injuries,” said Andries Nkome.  President Jacob Zuma announced in December 2016, that government was ready to pay compensation.

“The SAPS [South African Police Service] has instructed its attorneys to make offers of payments in full settlement of claims, for the claims where quantification were complete and are not under criminal investigation,” he announced in a statement.  Government has offered the families and victims of the Marikana massacre just over R1.1-billion in compensation.

UNION POLITICS

Amcu’s Mathunjwa calls on Zwane to stop ‘useless, senseless decisions’

Joseph Mathunjwa, president of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu), was asked by Moneyweb about a number of the most important issues currently affecting the mining industry.  These included the DMR’s review of the Mining Charter, the call by the National Union of Mineworkers for Minister Mosebenzi Zwane to step down and Zwane’s proposed moratorium on the issuing and transfer of mining licenses.  Characterising the Charter as a code of good practice, Mathunjwa spoke about the need for a stakeholder engagement to set up the goals and the timeframes of how to achieve the goals.  But, he advised that Amcu had not been consulted at all on the revision.

Mathunjwa described the NUM’s call for Zwane to step down as opportunistic, but added that he was “not in favour of him”.  This was particularly so as Zwane had “never done anything” to recover the bodies of the three Lily Mine workers.  On the moratorium, Mathunjwa said that it would make matters worse because at the end of the day “we as the union will be facing job losses”.  He called on Zwane “to stop these useless, senseless decisions that he is taking.”  Mathunjwa also spoke about Riah Phiyega’s role at Marikana.

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