DISPUTES AND INDUSTRIAL ACTION

Satawu members at e-toll Collection Company protest at Transport Minister’s office

Members of the SA Transport and Allied Workers’ Union (Satawu) marched on the office of the Transport Minister on Thursday demanding intervention into “rampant abuse of power” by e-toll management.  The union accused the Road Traffic Infringement Agency and Centurion company Electronic Toll Collection of “flouting the law” by not affording Satawu representation for its members‚ despite a ruling by the CCMA in favour of the union.  This was said to be preventing the union from addressing workers’ grievances‚ which included salary disparities between workers doing the same jobs and deductions of 50% from the 13th cheques of workers who had been issued with written warnings.  Allegations of nepotism and tribalism were also levelled at area managers who were said to have employed their friends into positions.

Zama zamas demand mining permits

Illegal miners (zama zamas), organised under the banner of Mining Affected Communities United in Action (Macua), took to the streets of Pretoria on Tuesday and marched on the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) to deliver a memorandum of demands.  Among their demands were that the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act be scrapped and that zama zamas be decriminalised.  They also want government to formalise illegal mining and to address the impact of abandoned and unrehabilitated mines.

WAGE AND OTHER LABOUR NEGOTIATIONS

Agreement in metals and engineering sector

The Trade Unions and SEIFSA agreed on Friday to request the Bargaining Council to convene a Signing Ceremony on Wednesday, 23 August 2017 to reconvene formally and officially to endorse and finalize the Settlement Agreement covering the period 1 July 2017 to 30 June 2020. The details of the Agreement is the same as were reported previously and the finalised detail will be published next Sunday in the Weekly (i.e. after signing of the final agreement)

Nearsa and the other employer bodies are still outside of the agreement.

Bank Note Company

Employees of the SA Bank Note Company want the SA Reserve Bank (SARB) to subsidise their medical aid as promised and to increase their wages.  They marched to the SARB last Wednesday to indicate that they had grievances and would not work unless those were addressed.  Shop steward Moses Fikile Mane stated:  “Medical aid is a condition of employment at our company, but amazingly the Reserve Bank is not subsidising under the false pretext of total guaranteed packages.  Reserve Bank employees are subsidised for medical aid, and there is no logic in that we aren’t.”  About salaries he said:  “The company is offering workers a 6.6% wage increase yet we are demanding 8.5%, but that is negotiable.  Other problems are salary disparities which are not attended to.”

EMPLOYMENT AND LABOUR ECONOMIC ISSUES

ArcelorMittal SA initiates retrenchment talks as it pushes ahead with restructuring plan

Steel producer ArcelorMittal SA (AMSA) announced on Tuesday that it had initiated consultations with employees regarding its proposed business-restructuring programme, which could result in job losses.  CEO Wim de Klerk said in a statement that it was premature to provide an estimate as to the number of employees who could be retrenched.  However, it was possible that more than 50 employees could lose their jobs.  The JSE-listed company currently employs over 8,600 people directly and more than 3,200 contractors.  The retrenchment talks follow AMSA’s announcement of a R1.6bn headline loss for the six months to 30 June; a performance that was attributed to weak domestic market conditions, particularly in the infrastructure markets, and surging input costs.  However, the talks also come amid a strong increase in protection for primary steel products.

Coastal and marine tourism could create 116,000 direct jobs by 2026

The South African Cabinet has approved the coastal and marine tourism implementation plan, which the Department of Tourism will spearhead.  Tourism Minister Tokozile Xasa said in a statement on Friday that the aim was “to grow a world-class and sustainable coastal and marine tourism destination that leverages SA’s competitive advantage in nature, culture, and heritage”.  She went on to indicate:  “The coastal and marine tourism sector will contribute about R21.4bn to the GDP and create about 116,000 direct jobs by 2026.  These estimates are conservative as they are growing off a low 2015 base of a R11.9bn direct contribution to GDP and 64,400 direct jobs.”  The plan will prioritise destinations rather than individual tourism projects or products.  Initiatives will be concentrated on marketing, events and routes; regulations and permits; research and spatial planning; beach precinct development, tourism infrastructure and tourism safety; maritime tourism; and skills development.

Youth unemployment crisis

Former deputy finance minister, Mcebisi Jonas says SA’s 70% youth joblessness is begging the government and the private sector to get over their mistrust and antagonism of one another.  He was speaking at the launch of a series of reports by the Centre for Development Enterprise (CDE) that deal with tackling youth unemployment.  Jonas said youth unemployment was a national crisis and new, radical measures should be taken to confront it.  While policy uncertainty, ANC party-infighting and corruption were responsible for major corporates sitting on R1.4 trillion that could jump-start the economy, Zuptoid state capture has also put paid to several pragmatic, hugely innovative job creation initiatives.  One such example is the now-stalled Youth Employment Service Programme aimed at creating 330,000 jobs a year.  A joint initiative of top business leaders, it was aimed at creating internships to boost township economies.

Avoiding platinum industry job cuts

The Financial Mail indicated in an article that platinum mining companies are having to take painful decisions to make operations resilient in the face of low prices, regulatory uncertainty, labour and community protests and an unclear demand outlook.  While the industry’s three biggest platinum miners — Amplats, Impala Platinum and Sibanye Gold — are holding their heads above water, some of the smaller producers, such as Atlatsa at its Bokoni mine, Platinum Group Metals at Maseve and Royal Bafokeng Platinum at Bafokeng Rasimone Platinum Mine recently announced they would have to restructure operations and retrench staff.  Kagiso Asset Management’s Abdul Davids says there are likely to be more retrenchments in the industry as persistently low platinum group metals (PGM) prices and high operating cost inflation (especially wage growth) mean 70% of the industry is loss making.  The labour-intensive mines are under the highest pressure and there is an increasing profitability gap between them and the lower-cost mechanised mines, which have actually done well operationally.  Lonmin CEO Ben Magara refused to be drawn on whether that company’s restructuring would involve job cuts.  Meantime, labour relations seem to have stabilised compared with 2012 and 2014.  But, platinum mines experience more community protests than other mining companies because they are located in the poorest parts of SA — the former homelands — where unemployment and poverty are rife.

Electricity intensive firms to approach Nersa for new job-saving tariff deal

The Energy Intensive Users Group (EIUG) intends to approach the National Energy Regulator of SA (Nersa) before the end of September with a proposal for structural changes to Eskom’s tariff for large power users.  It will propose removing existing cross-subsidies to assist businesses whose future sustainability is being placed in jeopardy by the utility’s current fast-rising price path.  In motivating for the short-term tariff relief, the EIUG will argue that competitive prices for electricity heavy firms will help stimulate economic growth and stave off the job losses that are likely to arise should these companies be forced to accept the further double digit tariff increases being sought by Eskom.  The proposed tariffs should not be accessible only to EIUG members and direct Eskom customers, but also to any company that meets the criteria set by the regulator.  Importantly, these more cost-reflective tariffs should also be available to power-intensive firms that buy their electricity from municipal distributors.  The EIUG’s planned approach to Nersa comes against the background of falling domestic electricity consumption, which has declined by 0.5% a year on average since 2006.

REMUNERATION AND EMPLOYEE BENEFITS

R10,000 or more for new platinum miners

The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) said on Wednesday that no new entrant mineworker when employed in the platinum mines should earn less than R10,000 a month on basic salary.  Amcu president Joseph Mathunjwa said this at the fifth anniversary of the Marikana tragedy commemoration at the Nkaneng informal settlement, where 34 Lonmin mineworkers were killed when the police opened fire on them on 16 August 2012.  He recalled that when his union led a five-month long strike in the platinum mines in Rustenburg, it was said they were going to ruin the economy.  “What Amcu can report without fear of any contradictions is that we managed to dismantle solid apartheid foundations of which the salary of mineworkers were built upon.  To change the situation they (mineworkers) had to think outside the box…”  Mathunjwa also said a study conducted by Wits University found that the union’s R12,500 wage demand could have been achieved as far back as 2006.

Cosatu welcomes stalling of unpopular plan to annuitise provident fund payouts

Labour federation Cosatu has hailed the Treasury’s decision to delay the implementation of the compulsory annuitisation of two-thirds of provident fund payouts as a “victory for workers”.  Implementation of the measure, which Cosatu has fought against since it was first mooted, has been shifted from 1 March 2018 to 1 March 2019 in order for discussions on the government’s comprehensive social security document to take place within the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac).  This is the third postponement of the measure, which was originally to have been introduced in 2015.  Treasury’s Chris Axelson said on Tuesday that both labour and business supported a postponement, but he stressed the Treasury “still want to be very strong on this.”  The proposal would require that two-thirds of withdrawals from provident funds on retirement be converted into an annuity with only one-third being capable of being taken as cash.

POLITICAL AND COMMUNITY

Marikana tragedy commemorated by Amcu

Thousands of Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) members commemorated the fifth anniversary of the Marikana tragedy last Wednesday.  Dressed in green union regalia, mineworkers and union members gathered at the foot of the infamous koppie (hill) in the Nkaneng informal settlement to remember 34 of their colleagues who died when the police shot them on 16 August 2012.  Amcu president Joseph Mathunjwa said the Marikana massacre was different from the Sharpeville and Langa massacres because it happened under a constitutional democracy.  

He also called for a change in the electoral system to allow the electorate to elect the president directly and said that by 2019 he could lead a Labour Party, and make sure there were only two parties — the labour party and the democrats.  Mathunjwa claimed that from next year mineworkers would earn over R12,500 per month.  Lonmin CEO, Ben Magara, urged workers to work together with the mine to fix the conditions at the mine and in Africa

POLITICAL AND COMMUNITY

Silicosis class action lawsuit

The mining companies facing a class action lawsuit to compensate miners afflicted with silicosis have provisionally set aside between $30 million and $100 million for a possible settlement.  They indicated that the matter is being handled out of court.  The companies involved include Sibanye Gold, Harmony Gold, African Rainbow Minerals, Anglo American SA, AngloGold Ashanti and Gold Fields.  The mining companies involved, known as the industry working group, do not believe they are liable in respect of the claims brought, but have indicated they are committed to finding solutions to what they have called “a legacy issue” in the sector.  Spokesperson for the working group, Allan Fine, commented that “neither the companies nor claimants believe it would be best to pursue this through the courts for the next 10 to 15 years.”

Companies urged to review employment equity plans

The Department of Labour (DOL) is intensifying its efforts to root out JSE-listed companies that contravene the Employment Equity (EE) Act.  Recent amendments to the act will see businesses facing even harsher consequences for non-compliance, Justine Combrink of Mazars has cautioned.  She noted that the DOL has singling out the JSE Limited as one of the offenders warned to get their house in order and has issued a statement that it would be reviewing another 72 JSE-listed companies by the end of December 2017.  “This review will not only involve a test as to whether the plans are submitted and reported, but also an interrogation of the plans.  Any companies found not to have reported correctly will be hit with fines amounting to R1.5m,” said Combrink.  Those failing to report on EE plans will also be subjected to a penalty of R1.5m.  Companies that did report an EE plan, but didn’t actually have or apply it, will possibly even be taken to criminal courts.  Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant has also warned that she would proclaim section 53 of the EE Act to block non-compliant companies from doing business with the state.

Download PDF