DISPUTES AND INDUSTRIAL ACTION

Western Cape female farmworkers

On 31 August, more than 200 female farm workers marched to the provincial legislature in Cape Town and then to the Department of Labour.  The protest was organised by the Women on Farms Project (WFP), a non-governmental organisation that promotes the rights of women who work in commercial agriculture in the Western and Northern Cape.  The march followed a presentation by WFP of recent research on violations of labour law on commercial farms.  The study used information from 343 questionnaires completed by women farmworkers.  It found that 75% of seasonal workers in the sample were not paid the minimum wage.  Farm workers also reported health and sanitation concerns.  72% of women seasonal workers indicated there was a lack of toilet facilities where they worked, and that they were forced to use “a bush or a secluded spot”.  The study concluded that “farmers are systematically violating laws that were introduced to protect and advance the rights of farm workers”.

Striking farmworkers protest in Ventersdorp

The SA Federation of Trade Union (Saftu) said on Tuesday that at least 123 farmworkers were on strike in Ventersdorp, in the North West, over union recognition and wages.  The workers are striking since 25 August 2017 at Doornplaat beef farm outside Ventersdorp, demanding that their union, the National Union of Public Service and Allied Workers (Nupsaw), be recognised by the employer.  They further wanted the employer to compensate the families of three workers who died on duty.  Farmworkers filled the Ventersdorp municipality chambers during a media briefing and painted a gloomy picture of labour law violations at the farm.

UCT strike cancelled

According to University of Cape Town (UCT) workers and student activists they had no choice but to withdraw their planned strike over labour issues, after the university applied for a court interdict over two technicalities.  A meeting between the university’s management and worker representatives on Wednesday ended with the parties agreeing they would meet again on Thursday.  They were due to discuss issues regarding working hours, shift allowances and pay differences among ground staff. Vice-chancellor Max Price attended Wednesday’s meeting to argue that management was working to resolve the issues.

Next round of taxi protests to target BAW, Sasol and Fourways Mall

It appears from reports that the next round of protests (from 13 September onwards) by the taxi industry will target vehicle manufacturer Beijing Automotive Works (BAW), Sasol in Secunda and the Fourways Mall.  Further companies may be added to the list of targets.  The protests are mainly related to the tazi industry’s exclusion from the industries’ value chain.  The planned protest against Fourways Mall is related to the lack of facilities at the mall for taxis that transport customers and retail store staff to and from the mall.  Apparently, the Mass Taxi Industry Protest Action Committee is in the process of applying for permission to embark on the protests. The committee, a splinter group of the SA National Taxi Council (Santaco), organised the blockade at Toyota SA’s manufacturing plant in Prospecton in Durban in May and the protests that took place in June in Johannesburg and Midrand.

WAGE AND OTHER LABOUR NEGOTIATIONS

Government wage talks

The Public Servants Association of SA (PSA) indicated that it has been lobbying a number of stakeholders, including Fedusa-aligned unions and Cosatu, ahead of wage talks at the Public Service Co-ordinating Bargaining Council (PSCBC).  Amid political and economic instability, the PSCBC is bracing itself for the most of difficult wage talks.  “We are fully aware that these negotiations will be the toughest most probably in the history of our democracy.  

That is why our approach will also be different from previous ways of negotiations.  We are looking at and encouraging partnerships instead of adopting an adversarial approach to negotiations,” the PSA’s Tahir Maepa said.  Forming part of PSA’s plan going into the wage talks is to hear the positions of business and labour so that a middle path can be found that will not be oblivious of the current economic climate.

EMPLOYMENT AND LABOUR ECONOMIC MATTERS

AB InBev/SAB entrepreneurship campaign to create 10,000 jobs by 2021

The South African Breweries (SAB) announced that it would help create jobs in SA and increase opportunities for entrepreneurs to become part of its supply chain through its key entrepreneurship programmes.  SAB said it has laid the foundation to support entrepreneurs and create a total of 10,000 jobs in SA by 2021 using its entrepreneurship programmes, namely SAB KickStart, SAB Foundation, SAB Thrive and SAB Accelerator, as well as its agriculture programmes to grow emerging farmers.  Ricardo Tadeu, zone president for AB InBev Africa and SAB, said the company strongly believed entrepreneurship was the most appropriate response to the unemployment issue and would help to galvanise the economy.  He stated:  “We recognise that job creation is top of mind amongst South Africans.  We will do this through a range of initiatives, including providing real, authentic and sustainable jobs that we can measure going forward.”  The commitment to create 10,000 jobs is over and above the commitments that SAB agreed on last year with government after the business combination between AB InBev and SABMiller.

Ramaphosa warns workers to prepare for mechanisation

In answering questions on the economy in the National Assembly on Wednesday, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa said that South African workers needed to be ready to face the “storm” of mechanisation as new technology could lead to job losses.  On a question by Economic Freedom Fighters MP Reneilwe Mashabela about jobless growth, where companies replace workers with machines, Ramaphosa said this was a “global problem” that had to be faced.  Mashabela said a trend of machines replacing workers was taking place in South African economic sectors including manufacturing, mining, agriculture and service industries.  Noting that robots replacing workers was a global trend, Ramaphosa commented:  “We have to be ahead of the curve.  We have to, as a developing economy, find ways in which we can keep our people in jobs.”  Two days earlier, economic data released by Statistics SA showed that the country’s gross domestic product increased by 2.5% in the second quarter of 2017.  But, as Statistician General Pali Lehohla noted, this growth did not contribute significantly to the number of people employed because of mechanisation.

Transnet considering more retrenchments

More than 8‚000 jobs are on the line at Transnet‚ where management is believed to be mooting a second round of (voluntary) retrenchments this year after the take-off of voluntary packages were not successful with less of 10% of the targeted number of 9,022 employees applying. Worker representatives have questioned why a company that ended the previous financial year with a R2.8bn profit and R6bn cash in its bank account, should want to retrench.  National Transport Movement (NTM) general secretary Ephraim Mpahlele said they were opposed to retrenchments‚ voluntary or otherwise.  Steve Harris of the United National Transport Movement (UNTU) said that, although the union had not yet been informed of the intended VSPs‚ the reports made sense and were very concerning to them.

NUM wants Trans Hex to surrender mining licence

The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) has called on diamond mining company Trans Hex to surrender its mining licence amid its plan to retrench 332 employees at its ageing and loss-making Baken Mine in the Northern Cape.  NUM spokesperson Livhu­wani Mammburu questioned why the diamond producer was putting the mine, which has been operating for more than 45 years, under care and maintenance if it was no longer profitable. Trans Hex said that Baken was nearing the end of life in its current form.  Operations would continue at the mine during the consultation process with the NUM and Baken would then be placed on care and maintenance from 1 November.

Union federations welcome deferment of sugar tax

Labour federations have called on the National Treasury to revisit submissions and engage meaningfully on the contentious sugar tax now that its implementation has been deferred.  Treasury’s Ismail Momoniat announced on Tuesday that implementation of the so-called sugar tax would be delayed until April 2018.  The Treasury had proposed a 20% tax on sugar-sweetened beverages, which was supposed to be implemented in April this year.  But industry body, the Beverage Association of SA (BevSA), rallied against the proposed tax, saying if implemented, it would cost between 62,000 and 72,000 jobs.  “We hope that during this postponement period they will attend to some of the submissions regarding the issue of jobs,” said Cosatu spokesperson Sizwe Pamla.  Fedusa’s Dennis George said that the postponement should be used to establish a “proper dialogue on this matter so that we can scrutinise its impact on the economy”.  His counterpart from Nactu, Narius Moloto, agreed.  Saftu’s Moleko Phakedi said:  “The consultation should strike a balance between (promotion of) good health and job creation.  The tax shouldn’t attain good health at the expense of jobs in the sector.”  Phakedi said the consultations should be inclusive and bemoaned the fact that Saftu’s affiliate, the Food and Allied Workers’ Union (Fawu), was left out of the Nedlac discussions on the matter.

REMUNERATION AND EMPLOYEE BENEFITS

Pay mineworkers decent salaries, Zwane tells Motsepe

Minister of Mineral Resources, Mosebenzi Zwane, has challenged mining investor Patrice Motsepe to consider paying his mineworkers higher salaries as he does for players at Mamelodi Sundowns.  Zwane was among the keynote speakers at the memorial service last Monday for five mineworkers who died after being trapped underground at Harmony Gold’s Kusasalethu mine.  Motsepe, who owns Mamelodi Sundowns soccer team, is also the chairperson of Harmony’s board.  Zwane said it was unacceptable that mineworkers were still subjected to poverty and dangerous working conditions while mine bosses lived a life of luxury.  He then challenged Motsepe, whom he said he trusted, to change the status quo faced by the industry.  “We will not be free until the last shack is eradicated and workers own mines,” Zwane also said.

City of Joburg employees angry over deduction from pay of outstanding municipal bills 

A row has erupted between City of Johannesburg employees, most of them members of the SA Municipal Workers’ Union (Samwu) and the DA-led administration, over an alleged unilateral decision to dock their salaries.  Several employees, most of them lowly paid with an average gross salary of about R10,000, have spoken about their shock when their salary advice slips for the past three months showed deductions between R250 to R2,000 for outstanding water bills.  Samwu regional secretary for Joburg region, Bafana Zungu, confirmed that the members approached the union’s offices and requested an intervention, as the deductions were never thoroughly explained.  The city’s Luyanda Mfeka said:  “A total of 2,971 employees owes the City R50 million in excess of 90 days for municipal services, and they currently don’t have acknowledgement of debt to service the arrears.”  She claimed workers were given an opportunity to make arrangements.  Some insiders have suggested the City’s hasty decision to collect the R50 million was because the City’s books were currently not balancing.

ILC threatens court action to prevent GEPF money being used for SAA debt

The Independent Labour Caucus (ILC)‚ a collection of 12 unions‚ is objecting to the possible use of the state employees’ pension fund to bail out South African Airways (SAA).  SAA owes R6.8 billion to banks‚ payable at the end of September‚ with several banks refusing to extend repayment terms.  The accumulated funds of the Government Employees Pension Fund (GEPF) are invested through the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) and it is this that might be used to pay the airline’s debt.  The ILC includes teachers union Naptosa and health services union Hospersa.  It has threatened court action should fund trustees approve the use of PIC funds for SAA debt and has pointed out that trustees of pension funds have to be independent and act in the best interests of their members.  The organisation has written in this regard to the GEPF’s board of trustees‚ the Minister of Finance Malusi Gigaba and Deputy Minister of Finance Sfiso Buthelezi‚ who chairs the PIC board.  The ILC has noted that SAA has a bad business record.

LEGAL AND COMPLIANCE

Nedlac rejects Saftu’s claim of bias in issuing of protest action certificates

The National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) says it is not biased in its issuing of section 77 certificates, which protect workers embarking on socioeconomic protests.  The SA Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) accused Nedlac of acting “suspiciously”, because its members either had applications declined or their applications were not finalised speedily.  The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) has also complained about having to resubmit an application for a protest against mining job losses after its initial attempt was turned down by Nedlac.  Denying that it deliberately stalled any applications, Nedlac on Thursday also criticised Saftu’s plan to protest outside Nedlac’s annual summit on Friday, saying the federation’s fight for affiliation was without merit as there was as yet no record of a membership application.

Brits businessman arrested for illegal mining

A Brits businessman, Johan Kirchner, and his accomplice have been arrested in connection with illegal mining.  According to a police spokesperson, Kirchner and his accomplice, Justice Mogale, were arrested during a raid by the Limpopo provincial unit of organised crime.  Unprocessed chrome loaded on four trucks was confiscated during the raid, which was part of an operation to fight illegal mining in the Burgersfort and Lebowakgomo areas.  Kirchner and Mogale were released on R2,000 bail each when they appeared at Limpopo Magistrates’ Court on Monday.

UNION AFFAIRS

NUM vs NUM as union members clash at election meeting

Inter-union violence broke out in the mining town of Stilfontein, near Klerksdorp, when National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) members clashed over a leadership election last Sunday night.  Two people were injured and a union vehicle was damaged.  The NUM’s Moab Khotsong branch had just elected new leaders, but the gathering was disrupted by a group of members who accused the regional Matlosana leadership of excluding their preferred nominations.  North West police spokesperson Sabata Mokgwabone confirmed that police were called in to defuse the situation.  The NUM Matlosana regional secretary, Khaya Ngeleka, said the meeting continued after the police dispersed the other union members.

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