INDUSTRIAL ACTION

Petra Diamonds

Petra Diamonds reached an agreement with the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) on salaries at the company’s Finsch and Koffiefontein operations, ending a strike at the two mines.  Employees returned to normal duties on 29 September.  Petra added that no agreement had been reached at a third mine, the Kimberley Ekapa Mining Joint Venture.  The Cullinan mine has not been impacted by labour disruptions.  The three-year wage agreement provides for an annual rise for NUM members of around 9% to 10% in the first year, and 8.5% for the remaining two years.  The NUM’s demands at Koffiefontein had included a 10% wage rise and a monthly housing subsidiary of R1,500 for three years.

Striking 10111 workers

The SA Police Service (SAPS) on Thursday called on all striking 10111 call centre workers to return to work no later than Friday or face disciplinary steps.  Brigadier Vishnu Naidoo said the strike action which was called by the SA Policing Union (Sapu) was initially a protected strike, but an agreement earlier this month between SAPS and the Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (Popcru) at the bargaining council had rendered the strike action unprotected.  He explained:  “Although Sapu was not a signatory to the agreement‚ the said agreement is enforceable and it renders the strike action unprotected.”  However‚ Sapu has disputed the police’s version‚ saying that there was a dispute as to whether Popcru was a majority union in the police service.  Sapu general secretary Oscar Skommere also said that in terms of the constitution of bargaining council‚ where a union represented a majority in a specific police sector – such as 10111 –the employer had to engage with that union.

Cosatu’s marches

Scores of people participated in the marches in Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town and others added their voices to the protests in several other cities.  The main demand in the memorandums that were handed over was for President Zuma to resign. However political analysts have dismissed labour federation Cosatu’s countrywide mass action on Wednesday as “nothing new” and say the marches will have very little impact on President Jacob Zuma’s political fortunes.

Eldorado Park teachers

The Gauteng department of education has reached an agreement with the SA Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) in terms of which all teachers at 30 schools in Eldorado Park returned to their posts last Thursday.  This came after Sadtu withdrew its members from teaching in the area when a group of teachers were barred from working following claims of misconduct.  Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi held a meeting with the teachers’ union on Tuesday evening where it was agreed that all teachers from Klipspruit West Secondary School and those participating in a sympathetic withdrawal from about 30 schools in Eldorado Park would return to their posts.  Klipspruit West has faced stoppages in teaching, with residents protesting against the department for its failure to hire a principal at the school‚ where they forcibly removed a black principal.  Security personnel has been deployed to the school for access control and the department has appointed an acting principal with full delegation.  Allegations of racism will be investigated by the SA Human Rights Commission.

WAGE AND OTHER LABOUR NEGOTIATIONS

Num and Solidarity in wage agreement with Exxaro

Both the Num and Solidarity have signed a collective agreement on wages and other conditions of service for the next three years on behalf of their members at Exxaro Resources.  The agreement will be effective from July 2017 until June 2020, with this year’s increase to be backdated.

The agreement provides for increases during the first year of 7.5% to 10% depending on the employee’s job level, and 7.5% across the board in the second and third years.  Other improvements in conditions of service were also agreed upon.

EMPLOYMENT AND LABOUR ECONOMICS MATTERS

Jobs crisis worsens

The SA economy continues to bleed jobs, with Statistics SA reporting on Thursday that employment had declined by 34,000 jobs in the second quarter of 2017.  The second-quarter employment survey has validated fears expressed by trade unions and analysts in the first quarter that the unemployment crisis in the country would worsen.  Formal non-agriculture jobs fell by 48,000 in the first quarter.  Stats SA said that while Thursday’s figures showed a gain of 13,000 jobs when compared with a similar period in 2016, the figures were unlikely to allay fears that the weakened economy was shedding jobs at a fast rate.  Mining and trade were recorded as having increased by 6,000 jobs, despite the thousands of retrenchment notices issued by mining houses in recent months.  Their affect will only be felt in the third quarter.  Second-quarter job losses were driven by the manufacturing industry with 13,000 jobs lost and the construction industry with 11,000 jobs lost.

No more labour brokers for Gauteng government

Gauteng has decided to do away with labour brokers before the end of the year.  Premier David Makhura made the announcement when he addressed Cosatu supporters protesting against corruption and state capture in Johannesburg on Wednesday.  He noted that there was no debate about outsourcing and labour brokers.  Cosatu has been fighting government to force it to ban labour brokers and is of the view that only a total ban on labour brokers would stop the abuse of workers by employers.

Strike statistics for 2016

The Department of Labour’s Industrial Action report for 2016, showed that in term of wages lost, the South African labour economy lost approximately R161 million due to work stoppages in 2016, compared to R116 million in 2015.  This reflected an increase of 38.8%.  The labour market lost a total of 946‚323 working days as a result of 122 work stoppages.  This represented a 4.7% increase in working days lost in 2016‚ compared to 903‚921 days lost in 2015.  There were 90‚228 workers involved in labour disputes in 2016‚ the lowest figure since strike records captured in 2013.  Most of the work stoppages were due to wages‚ bonus and other compensation demands.  “Strikes in company only” were predominantly higher, contributing to 56% of strikes in 2016.  Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal topped the provinces affected by stoppages.  The median wage settlement from various industries in 2016 was close to 8% as compared to 7.4% in 2015. In February, employers and trade unions made an undertaking to implement the Code of Good Practice: Collective Bargaining, Industrial Action and Picketing, as a means of shifting the tone of collective bargaining and industrial conflict in SA.

REMUNERATION AND EMPLOYEE BENEFITS

Setting up legal framework for NHI

Developing the legal framework for the National Health Insurance (NHI) policy is likely to take twice as long as the government has planned.  This was said by Neil Kirby of Werksmans Attorneys, who is one of SA’s leading healthcare lawyers, at the annual Hospital Association of SA (Hasa) conference on Wednesday.  It will require such a complex set of legislative reforms, it will be impossible to achieve by 2022, he told delegates.  The NHI aims to provide quality healthcare services to everyone, which is free at the point of delivery, and to narrow the gap between the care currently available to the rich and poor.

The government’s latest policy on NHI envisages the enabling legislative framework for NHI to be developed between 2017 and 2022.  In addition to amending 11 existing healthcare acts, the government would probably need to craft two entirely new pieces of NHI-related legislation, said Kirby.  Amendments would probably be needed to the Consumer Protection Act and the Labour Relations Act as well.  Once the acts have been promulgated, they will then require enabling regulations to bring them into effect.

LEGAL AND COMPLIANCE

eNCA in dispute about contractless employment

Another labour-related legal dispute looms for news organisation eNCA over more allegations of contractless employment at the channel.  Nhlanhla Mbatha alleges that he worked for 13 months at eNCA as a sub-editor without a contract from October 2015 to the end of November last year, when he was “unceremoniously” told his contract had finished – “even though I never signed one”.  He is taking the channel to the Labour Court, where papers have been filed, following an unsuccessful attempt in March to get what he felt was recourse at the CCMA.  Mbatha’s allegations follow those made earlier this month by freelance anchors at eNCA who alleged that they too worked at the channel without contracts.  Meantime, Mark Rosin, the group COO at eNCA’s controlling company, eMedia Investments, said:  “Any suggestions that eNCA does not adhere to the labour laws of the country are false.  The matter of contracts, freelance and otherwise, is an internal matter on which we will not be drawn to comment in public.”

Harmony mine manager shot dead amidst ‘zama zama war’

The regional manager of Harmony Gold’s Thsepong and Phakisa mine near Odendaalsrus in the Free State was shot dead on Thursday afternoon shortly after he left that company’s premises.  Simphiwe Kubheka’s murder is widely believed as having been an assassination in the ‘war’ between illegal miners (zama zamas) and the company.  Just outside the mine gates, a man apparently stepped in front of Kubheka’s car while another man came from the side and shot him twice in the head.  The attackers fled on foot and Kubheka died at the scene.   No one has been arrested.  Kubheka was known amongst his colleagues as someone who fought tooth and nail against corruption and did not hesitate to take action against illegal miners.  Harmony said in a statement that it has already strengthened safety precautions and was working closely with the police to apprehend the perpetrators.

UNION AFFAIRS

Harmony mine manager shot dead amidst ‘zama zama war’

The regional manager of Harmony Gold’s Thsepong and Phakisa mine near Odendaalsrus in the Free State was shot dead on Thursday afternoon shortly after he left that company’s premises.  Simphiwe Kubheka’s murder is widely believed as having been an assassination in the ‘war’ between illegal miners (zama zamas) and the company.  Just outside the mine gates, a man apparently stepped in front of Kubheka’s car while another man came from the side and shot him twice in the head.  The attackers fled on foot and Kubheka died at the scene.   No one has been arrested.  Kubheka was known amongst his colleagues as someone who fought tooth and nail against corruption and did not hesitate to take action against illegal miners.  Harmony said in a statement that it has already strengthened safety precautions and was working closely with the police to apprehend the perpetrators.

The incumbent regional officials are known to back NUM president Piet Matosa, who is involved in a bitter factional battle with Sipunzi over competing loyalty and dominance of the union.  Sipunzi has now called for the union to conduct a fact-finding mission and visit the area to arrest membership losses.  Meantime, Saftu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi said he was delighted by the workers joining Numsa and predicted the downfall of the NUM.

GENERAL

University of Johannesburg professor accused of fraud of R25m resigns

Professor Roy Marcus has resigned both as the chair of council of UJ and as a council member, but without admitting to any wrongdoing.  Mike Teke, until now the deputy-chair, has been formally elected as the new chair of council.  Marcus and deputy vice-chancellor for finance, Jaco van Schoor, have been accused of defrauding the university of at least R25 million.  The alleged fraud is believed to have taken place over a period of three years.  UJ spokesman Herman Esterhuizen said the UJ council met on Thursday to discuss the outcomes of a forensic investigation on alleged irregularities in the commercialisation domain of UJ.  He said:  “UJ Council has concluded that there is a prima facie case that the actions of Professor Marcus and Van Schoor contravened legal provisions and ethical obligations including those contained in the UJ Statute.  The Council has accepted Marcus’s resignation with immediate effect.”  Disciplinary processes have been instituted against Van Schoor.

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