DISPUTES AND INDUSTRIAL ACTION

Saftu joins 10111 call centre strike picket

The 10111 call centre strike intensified with the South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) joining the industrial action since last Friday.  Picketing took place in Gauteng and the SA Policing Union’s (Sapu’s) Oscar Skommere indicated that the union was pleased that Saftu had decided to join the picket and added:  “The support from other federations will give us support and the more we come in numbers, the more results we will get.”  Call centre agents say they can no longer accept being underpaid and that they will now remain on an indefinite strike after negotiations at the CCMA failed.

Amcu to engage in protest over mining jobs

Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) president Joseph Mathunjwa said at a press conference on Thursday that drastic action needed to be taken to avert the “jobs bloodbath” facing the mining industry.  Amcu has served the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) with a notice that it intends to engage in a nationwide protest over the issue of job losses, and this will include a petition directly to the office of the President.  No strike is being considered at present, as this would “plunge workers into more difficulty”.

At the same time Mathunjwa has apportioned some of the blame for the jobs bloodbath in the mining industry to trade agreements with countries such as the US.  He said that such deals allowed mining companies to beneficiate their commodities offshore instead of in SA.

Samwu and Midvaal

The SA Municipal Workers’ Union (Samwu) marched on Thursday to the Midvaal municipal offices in protest against working conditions and to deliver a memorandum of demands.  Samwu said numerous grievances have been raised with the management of the DA-run municipality to no avail.  The grievances include allegations of maladministration in the municipality, irregular awarding of tenders, irregular appointment of attorneys for the council, racism, sexual harassment, flawed recruitment processes, outsourcing, and the use of labour brokers.  Samwu also said its members intended to picket every day from 07:30 to 16:00 within a demarcated area in the public parking space at the municipal offices for an indefinite period.

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 (mostly affiliated to Seifsa) in the sector and trade unions have met to finalise details of a proposed settlement agreement that could see negotiations come to an end soon (employers are currently busy with mandating).

EMPLOYMENT AND LABOUR ECONOMICS MATTERS

Not enough women in top positions

According to Grant Thornton’s International Business Report, “Women in Business: New perspectives on risk and reward”, 28% of senior management roles in South African businesses are held by women in 2017.  This is based on its annual survey of 5,500 businesses in 36 economies.  This is an improvement from last year’s level of 23%. The research also shows this is a global phenomenon.  Female representation in senior management has a long way to go in North America (23%), the G7 economies (22%) and developed economies in Asia Pacific (13%).  South Africa compares favourably, with only 31% of businesses having no women in senior management, down from 39% last year.

Employment figures

Statistics SA announced the unemployment figures for the second quarter of 2017, which showed that the unemployment rate remained stagnant at 27.7%, which is its highest level since the data series started.  The unemployment rate for the youth younger than 25 – using the expanded definition that includes discouraged workers – is 67.4%.

Teacher skills and shortages

The Department of Basic Education (DBE) is stuck with more than 5,000 underqualified or unqualified teachers it cannot eliminate because of a tremendous shortage of teachers.  On Monday, DBE spokesman Elijah Mhlanga confirmed the figures, but said removing the unqualified teachers from the system would create a crisis.  Unqualified teachers are those whose highest academic qualification is matric, while underqualified teachers are those who have obtained a post-matric qualifications, but have received fewer than three years of on-the-job training.  These teachers are on the same salary scale as qualified colleagues.  Most of them are based in KwaZulu-Natal, one of the provinces worst affected by shortages.  The Centre for Development and Enterprise (CDE) has recommended that the government provide high-quality training and meaningful professional support and development opportunities to teachers to enable them to improve their performance.

REMUNERATION AND EMPLOYEE BENEFITS

Reducing employment affects medical schemes and health providers

With fewer employed workers contributing to medical schemes, the schemes’ poor performance has put pressure on payments made to providers such as Life Healthcare.  Gryphon Asset Managers analyst Casperus Treunicht explained in an article in Business Day that pressure in formal employment was negatively affecting medical schemes, which in turn reduced payments from the insured pool to healthcare providers.  “We know that Discovery and Bonitas are doing this and now we are also hearing rumours coming from the GEMS [Government Employees Medical Scheme],” he indicated.  Council of Medical Schemes data show there was a 0.06% decrease in the number of beneficiaries in schemes between 2014 and 2015.  In the same period, scheme expenditure on private hospitals increased 9.36%.

Treasury calls for law on unclaimed retirement funds

Treasury deputy director-general Ismail Momoniat indicated that legislation is needed to compel pension fund administrators to increase efforts to trace beneficiaries and pay out billions of rand in unclaimed funds.  The Financial Services Board (FSB) estimates that more than R40bn in pension funds remains unclaimed.  Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi recently said billions of rand due to former mine workers remained unclaimed, while Chamber of Mines CEO Roger Baxter put the figure at R3bn for the mining sector.  The unclaimed benefits, which include cash accumulated towards retirement and deaths, are held in investment vehicles and overseen by trustees, who use tracing companies to find beneficiaries, albeit sometimes reluctantly.  Momoniat, an FSB board member, said on Wednesday that a law was needed to provide guidelines and to compel trustees to find beneficiaries and pay out the money.  The FSB has been asked to deal with this issue.  A lack of record-keeping, the weak provision of information to employees as well as poor tracing efforts are among the reasons that workers’ benefits remained unclaimed.

UCT executive bonuses

The University of Cape Town (UCT) unions and lecturers have reacted with outrage to the R2.8 million in performance bonuses that the university’s top management paid themselves for 2016, which was almost double the R1.5m of 2015.  The Employees Union (EU) noted this was in circumstances where about 280 staff left UCT due to the university implementing austerity measures, through retrenchment, incentivised early retirement (IER) or voluntary separation package (VSP).  According to the union, they have been left demoralised by the “callousness” of the university’s actions and there was “no justification for demanding that ordinary workers ‘tighten their belts’ while the executive stuff their pockets”.  The university, however, denied this, with spokesperson Elijah Moholola indicating that the austerity project was part of an exercise to ensure the financial sustainability of UCT by giving an opportunity to employees who wished to leave to do so by accepting voluntary incentivised separation packages.  Apparently no employee was made redundant where savings targets were not met.

POLITICAL AND COMMUNITY

Jobs protest in Tlhabane (near Rustenburg)

A man was shot dead and 21 people were arrested during a protest in Tlhabane near Rustenburg, North West on Wednesday.  A 25-year-old man died after he was allegedly shot by security officers attempting to disperse a group of people who wanted to forcefully gain entry to a construction site.

The protest was allegedly triggered by the failure of the project manager at the construction site for a new shopping mall to table a fair report to the community regarding hiring of workers and SMME (small, medium and micro-enterprises) development.  A group of Tlhabane residents went to the site to protest against the alleged irregular and unfair employment of casual workers and SMME development.  Previously on 2 August, residents had protested at the construction site demanding to be employed.

LEGAL AND COMPLIANCE

72 JSE-listed companies get scrutinised over employment equity compliance

The Department of Labour said on Thursday that it has started a review to inspect 72 Johannesburg Stock Exchange- (JSE-) listed firms to ensure compliance with employment equity laws.  SA’s employment equity legislation aims to remove unfair discrimination and accelerate diversity in workplaces as the government seeks to redress the race-based policies of apartheid which ended in 1994 when the ruling ANC came to power.  The department indicated that any company which breached employment equity laws could face a fine of R1.5 million or be liable for criminal prosecution to enforce compliance.

Labour Court orders that four SAA executives be investigated for misconduct

The Labour Court has ordered that investigations currently being conducted at South African Airways (SAA) be broadened to look into the conduct of four officials.  The carrier lost a court bid on Friday to block members of the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) from marching at SAA and SAA Technical.  Among the union’s demands had been that the executives be suspended pending a disciplinary process.  SAA’s application backfired and the court ordered that investigations should determine if the conduct of former acting CEO Musa Zwane, Head of Baseline Maintenance Chaile Makaleng, Head of Procurement Nontsasa Memela and Princess Tshabalala, who also in the procurement department, was in breach of SAA’s policies.  If the findings show there to have been misconduct then “appropriate action” is to be taken.  Contrary to Numsa’s press statement on this matter, the court apparently did not order the suspension of the four officials.  Numsa spokesperson Phakamile Hlubi commented:  “Since we got what we wanted through the courts, we now no longer have to resort to a strike.”

Solidarity disappointed about de-recognition at Lonmin

Solidarity is bruised by the de-recognition of smaller unions at Lonmin, a trend not only in Lonmin but generally in the mining industry and also other industries. General secretary Gideon du Plessis has called on Lonmin CEO Ben Magara to participate in a live television or radio debate on its decision to remove the recognition and organisational rights of minority trade unions at its mines.  The move affects Solidarity, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and the United Association of SA (Uasa).  The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) was now recognised as the only trade union at the platinum producer’s operations.

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