INDUSTRIAL ACTION

Sadtu threatens national teacher strike

The SA Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) has given the Department of Basic Education (DBE) and the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) seven days to respond to certain demands or face a full national strike.  The demands range from pay disparity issues to working conditions.  On Tuesday‚ about 10‚000 union members marched to the offices of the departments in Pretoria‚ demanding a pay-scale progression of 1.5% to match the recompense received by other public servants.  The union claimed that since 2009 teachers have been receiving 0.5% less than other state employees on their pay scale.  Pay progression‚ which considers factors such as performance‚ competency and market rates‚ is the movement of an employee’s salary within a pay range.

Tshwane bus strike

A surprise strike by Tshwane Bus Service (TBS) staff at the C de Wet depot in Pretoria left commuters stranded on Thursday morning.  The workers apparently decided to embark on strike action “due to overtime and the apparent outsourcing of work to external companies,” according to TBS management. Workers blockaded the main gate at the depot‚ preventing buses from leaving.

Mango wage strike continues

Trade union Solidarity, representing the majority of pilots at Mango, commenced strike action last Monday. This follows the collapse of wage negotiations in which Solidarity is demanding an 8.5% wage increase with Mango offering 6%.

Strike at MTO sawmills in George

Operations at MTO Forestry’s sawmills in George have been temporarily suspended after workers who were unwilling to take part in a strike conducted by the National Certified Fishing and Allied Workers’ Union (NCFAWU) were attacked and assaulted.  The strike relates to a wage dispute and other disagreements.  It has been referred to the CCMA for conciliation.

Striking 10111 call centre workers

Workers at the 10111 call centre, who man the police emergency number, on Monday vowed to intensify their strike if their salary demands were not met.  The workers, who belong to the SA Policing Union (Sapu), have been on strike since 18 July.  On Monday, they marched to the Union Buildings in Pretoria to hand over a memorandum of grievances and demands.  The union wants the SA Police Service (SAPS) to increase their salary level by two notches, an estimated increase of R50,000 per annum, in accordance with the recommendations of a task team set up by former national police commissioner Riah Phiyega in 2013.  Such an adjustment would apparently put their salaries at same level as employees at other state call centres.  SA Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) general secretary, Zwelinzima Vavi marched with the strikers.

Strike at KZN plastic factory over unacceptable working conditions

Members of the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) embarked on a strike at Venk-Pac Plastics in Verulam, KwaZulu-Natal, to protest against working conditions at the plant.  Venk-Pac, which currently employs over 200 workers, provides plastic packaging solutions to various sectors.  Numsa said at least 150 workers had been on strike at the firm for the last two weeks.

WAGE AND OTHER LABOUR NEGOTIATIONS

Sibanye Platinum’s wage agreement creates certainty

Solidarity says is has reached a favourable three-year wage agreement on behalf of its members at Sibanye Platinum’s Kroondal mine.  The agreement is effective from 1 July and will be valid until 30 June 2020.  The wage component of Category A employees will increase by 6% during the first year and, in the second and third years, by 6% or a consumer inflation increase of up to 7%, depending on whichever is the higher amount.  The salaries of Category B employees will be increased by R1,000 across the board each year.   Further, Sibanye’s contribution to the employees’ medical fund will increase by R50 with effect from 1 July.  Female employees will also be eligible for four months’ maternity leave, with Sibanye to pay the difference between the Unemployment Insurance Fund allowance the employee is entitled to receive and her current basic salary.

Pan African says wage deal

Pan African Resources (PAR) has agreed with the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) to an 8% wage increase for employees at its Barberton Mines in a one-year wage agreement.  The agreement with the NUM is further to a three-year wage deal concluded on 30 June with the United Association of SA (Uasa) at Barberton Mines. The main factor influencing this year’s wage negotiations with the Num at Barberton (and resulting in a one-year agreement) was that negotiations with unions at Evander Gold Mines (EGM), Pan African’s other main asset, are only due to kick off next year under the auspices of the Chamber of Mines (it will therefore be beneficial to both the company and the union to combine in an agreement at the Chamber).

Public sector unions want wage increases of 10% to 12%

Public sector unions have tabled a consolidated list of demands, including general salary increases of 10% to 12% depending on level, with the Public Sector Co-ordinating Bargaining Council (PSCBC).  The unions called for the abolition of levels 1, 2 and 3 as those workers earned “slave wages”.  They have proposed that levels 4 to 7 get the highest increase of 12%, while levels 8 to 10 would receive 11% and levels 11 and 12 would get 10%.  One of the demands on the list is for a R2,500 housing allowance increase and for the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) to invest in the Government Employees Housing Scheme (GEHS).  The government was expected to deliver its feedback by tabling an official offer to unions last Friday.  While labour has already expressed anxiety about the 2017 negotiations because of the uncertain economic and political outlook, Public Service and Administration Minister, Faith Muthambi, said in September that she aimed to have a dispute-free negotiations season. She will apparently deploy the most senior staff from her office to the talks and ensure they have a mandate.

Strike at PPC Cement Slurry

According to the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), its members at PPC Cement Slurry in Mafikeng, North West, have embarked on a strike over wages.  The NUM is demanding a 12% wage increase, while the company is offering 6%.  The union said that the company must also close internal wage gaps.  The union is also demanding a R1,000 monthly housing allowance

EMPLOYMENT AND OTHER ECONOMIC MATTERS

Sibanye’s cost-cutting keeps platinum shafts working and saves jobs

Sibanye-Stillwater saved up to 10,000 jobs by backing away from a decision to close up to 300,000oz of annual platinum group metal (PGM) production from its Rustenburg mines, saying it was on track to save R1bn at the mines.  Spokesman James Wellsted said Sibanye had done the work to save its three deep-level conventional mines from closure and while the news was not great for the platinum market it meant unit costs of production were lower and the mines were headed for breakeven or profits.  The good news comes at a time when the company is in talks with organised labour at its Beatrix West and three Cooke shafts to close the operations at a cost of up to 10,000 jobs.  It is said that Sibanye will probably allow the formal talks to run their course before considering options around selling one or both of the mines.

Agri jobs boom in Western Cape

Despite the drought, more than 125,000 jobs have been added to the Western Cape’s agri-processing and agriculture sectors since the launch of the province’s Project Khulisa growth strategy in 2014.  Economic Opportunities MEC Alan Winde, the government team driving the strategy and Wesgro this week delivered a mid-term update on Project Khulisa.  To achieve the project’s target of adding 100,000 jobs to the agri-processing sector and growing the gross value add (GVA), three initiatives were identified, namely, capturing a large share of the global halaal market for the Western Cape; increasing wine export to China and Angola; and improving the production capacity for domestic and key strategic markets.  Winde said 127,497 jobs had been added to the agri-processing and agriculture sectors and GVA grew by R179 million.  Wesgro’s agri-business unit had secured investments in excess of R1.4billion, exceeding its three-year target of R1.1bn.

 Over 1,000 jobs lost in egg production

Industry experts said that commercial egg production in SA has tumbled 17% and over 1,000 workers have lost their jobs in the wake of an outbreak of avian flu in June.  Commercial egg production per day dropped to 17 million from 20.4 million after an outbreak of the H5N8 virus.

City of Joburg strengthens Metro Police force

The City of Johannesburg on Wednesday inducted 1‚500 new Metro Police (JMPD) officers to “bolster” policing in the city.

Consumer inflation picks up to 5.1% in September

Consumer inflation, as measured by the annual change in the consumer price index (CPI), accelerated to 5.1% year-on-year in September, from 4.8% in August.  This was worse than the economists’ consensus of 4.9%, but remained comfortably within the Reserve Bank’s target range of 3% to 6%.  Food inflation continued to moderate.  Food and non-alcoholic prices rose 5.5% in September from a year earlier, after a 5.7% increase in August and a 6.8% rise in July.  Many economists expect inflation to fall to the midpoint of the inflation target range in early 2018 before stabilising at about 5.5% in the second half of the year.

Unemployed youth roped in under EPWP programme to protect tourists at hot spots

One result of recent attacks on tourists has been the launch on Tuesday by the national and Gauteng tourism departments of a pilot tourist safety monitor project‚ which will see unemployed youth trained to provide advice to visiting tourists.  Two hundred safety monitors will take up their posts at Gauteng’s tourist hot spots‚ including Soweto and OR Tambo International Airport.  The monitors will eventually form part of more than 2‚000 who will be stationed around the country’s tourist attractions.  The employment of these monitors is being done through the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP).  All the monitors will undergo security vetting by the police and other security agencies.  The plan is to rally support from the private sector‚ especially in the form of sponsorship.

REMUNERATION AND EMPLOYEE BENEFITS

Labour demands representation of workers on PIC board

Labour federations and unions set aside their differences and demanded worker representation on the board of the Public Investment Corporation (PIC).  The PIC invests the funds of the Government Employees Pension Fund (GEPF).  During presentations to Parliament’s finance standing committee, labour also vehemently opposed the use of PIC funds to bail out ailing state-owned enterprises that have been bedevilled by charges of maladministration and corruption.  Cosatu’s Matthew Parks said no decision could be allowed to be made about public servants’ pensions without the involvement and agreement of his federation and its unions.  Fedusa general secretary Dennis George said public servants feared the PIC would be used for bailouts.   The Public Servants Association’s (PSA’s) Tahir Maepa said fears about bailouts were well founded.  Zwelinzima Vavi of the SA Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) claimed there was a queue seeking to borrow from the PIC to bail out SOEs.

GEPF looking for Eastern Cape beneficiaries of unclaimed pension benefits

The Government Employees Pension Fund (GEPF) is looking for hundreds of people in the Eastern Cape who left the public service without claiming their government pensions.  GEPF finance administrator Rhulani Macheke said they were working with various stakeholders to distribute and communicate the list of the names of beneficiaries.

LEGAL AND COMPLIANCE

CCMA partners with labour department for office space

The Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) is so overwhelmed with cases that it has partnered with the Department of Labour (DOL) for office space.  This is despite the CCMA’s footprint of 22 offices spread across SA’s nine provinces.  This was revealed by CCMA director Cameron Morajane as he delivered the agency’s 2016/2017 annual report last Tuesday.  He indicated that the partnership with the DOL was because of the “strain as we are above the threshold of what our offices can handle as a result of the caseload”.  CCMA acting chairperson Sifiso Lukhele said despite the case-load of the commission registering at 188,449 during the period under review, “the CCMA ensured that expeditious dispute resolution was delivered”.  On average the CCMA took 24 days to complete the conciliation process from the date of referral, against a legislated target of 30 days.  With companies axing employees to mitigate the economic downturn, Morajane advised that the commission had saved 25,196 jobs, which was 52% of the 48,448 jobs at stake.  The CCMA recorded total revenue of R794 038m for the year, compared to R755 217m the previous year

Amcu calls for commission into mine safety

The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) has called for a commission to be set up by the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) to determine the real causes of several mining accidents over the past few months.  The commission would determine whether more could have been done to avoid the consequences and would take place in addition to regular inquiries in terms of the Mine Health and Safety Act.  This comes after a spate of incidents during the past few months.

COMMUNITY

Mining industry on alert over violence on the platinum belt

The Mail & Guardian reports that with the recent spate of killings on the North West platinum belt mirroring the murders that happened before the Marikana massacre in August 2012, mining unions have raised red flags about the heightened tension.  The Chamber of Mines has met the national security cluster in a bid to prevent more violence.  This year, five Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) members have been murdered at the Lonmin and Impala mines near Rustenburg.  Amcu blamed hired killers and speculated about whether rival unions, the government or state security could be involved.  But with an internal rebellion afoot, Amcu finds itself in a similar situation to the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) before the Marikana massacre.  While its members may have different reasons for their dissent, Amcu acknowledged the problem and dispatched national leaders to all branches on the platinum belt.  This year’s killings appear to be linked to the perks of being elected into the union.  A permanent Amcu branch official (full-time shaft steward) earns about R18,000 a month at Lonmin — double the wage of an underground worker.  Allegations of corruption against the Amcu leadership and branch officials on the platinum belt have also been blamed for the latest killings.  In the chaos, the NUM claims to be drawing members back to its ranks in Rustenburg, but this is unsubstantiated. A similar claim is being made by Numsa who now also is recruiting.

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