INDUSTRIAL ACTION

Tshwane Metro Police ex-trainees protest

Former Tshwane Metro Police Department (TMPD) trainees demonstrated outside Tshwane House on Wednesday demanding to be reinstated and accusing mayor Solly Msimanga of “lying” and promising them “heaven and earth”, yet not doing anything.  About 200 former TMPD trainees claimed they completed training courses and received diplomas, but have been without work for three years.  The trainees were initially recruited by the former ANC-led municipality for deployment, but after failing a subject in their exams in 2013, their contracts were terminated.  But they were afforded an opportunity by the former ANC-led administration to complete the course last year and Msimanga, during his election campaign, promised to reinstate them once he took office.  Derrick Kissoonduth, MMC on community safety, said the trainees only completed the first phase of training and that there were hurdles to offering them permanent employment as security guards.

Whirlpool workers’ strike

The National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) indicated that its members would be meeting with management at appliance manufacturer Whirlpool, in KwaZulu-Natal, to discuss the ongoing strike at the firm.  At least 900 workers, including non-union members, have been on strike for the last nine days over housing demands.  Numsa spokesperson Phakamile Hlubi said the union has been negotiating with the employer to try and resolve the impasse, but no progress had been made to date.

Harmony Gold and Amcu reach agreement to end Kusasalethu strike

Harmony Gold indicated that it has reached an agreement with the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) to end the strike at its Kusasalethu mine in Carletonville. But it will wait to see if employees hold to their end of the deal and return to work. Employees embarked on a wildcat strike following the dismissal of six Amcu branch officials. Harmony Gold approached the Labour Court for an urgent interdict on Monday morning. The company indicated: “Subsequent to the granting of an interdict, there was a mass meeting held by Amcu leadership with employees at the mine and they have confirmed that they will call off the strike. They also confirmed that employees will start returning to work.”

WAGE AND OTHER LABOUR NEGOTIATIONS

Civil Engineering Bargaining Council strengthens negotiation skills through training

To ease wage negotiations in its industry, the Bargaining Council for the Civil Engineering Industry (BCCEI) has embarked on building strong negotiations skills through training. Members of the National Negotiating Forum (NNF) have been undergoing training courses to improve their negotiation skills. During 2016, two training courses from the International Labour Organisation were completed, followed by a collective bargaining/negotiation skills course and a relationship building initiative workshop this year. The NNF intends to start its industry negotiations during the first week of February 2018, even though the current collective agreement only expires in August 2018. The council has also established a dispute resolution centre – accredited by the CCMA – to conciliate and arbitrate in cases in the sector where parties cannot reach a settlement. The council’s party members include the Building, Construction and Allied Workers Union and the National Union of Mineworkers on the employees’ side, while employers are represented by the SA Forum of Civil Engineering Contractors and the small business focused Consolidated Employers’ Organisation. One of the major challenges for 2018 would be to grant recognition to Amcu who already has recognition at a number of the Council’s affiliates.

Chamber of Mines Coal producers

The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) has until further notice suspended issuing a strike notice to employers in the Coal industry. It appears therefore that strike action is off and that the Num will be able to reach agreement with all the employers represented at the Chamber.

EMPLOYMENT AND LABOUR ECONOMICS MATTERS

Square Kilometre Array construction project creates over 7,000 jobs

The construction of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project has created a total of 7,284 direct and indirect jobs. The majority of those who have benefited in the form of jobs, bursaries and technical training come from the small neighbouring communities of Carnarvon, Williston, Van Wyksvlei, Brandvlei, Vosburg, Loxton and Calvinia. The socio-economic developments resulting from the SKA will be in the spotlight as Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor and the media undertake a visit to Carnarvon in the Northern Cape this week. Carnarvon is where the SKA – the world’s largest radio telescope – is being built. The Department of Science and Technology (DST) is currently building the MeerKAT telescope, the SA precursor to the larger international SKA. To date, R134m has been spent on local suppliers for the construction of the projects, DST director for astronomy, Takalani Nemaungani, indicated. SKA SA has established a technical training centre located at its support base in Klerefontein, outside Carnarvon.

Lily mine remains in limbo

As the future of the distressed Lily mine hangs in the balance, trade union Solidarity has called on all parties to expedite the processes under way and make a decision on the mine’s future.  Every potential transaction over the past 18 months has failed to rescue the idled operation.  Solidarity mining deputy general secretary Connie Prinsloo said creditors were losing patience, with one having already brought a liquidation application against the mine, which is set to be heard on 29 January 2018.  “If this liquidation application is successful, the business rescue process would be replaced by an insolvency process, and a liquidator would be appointed to administer Lily’s estate,” he indicated.  However, a possible new suitor, which has apparently issued a notice to the creditors of a binding agreement to acquire Lily mine owner Vantage Goldfields’ shares, has said it was committed to implementing the business rescue plan.

Plaudits for Sasol

Ahead of its 2017 annual general meeting (AGM) last Friday, one of Sasol’s long-time critics (Theo Botha) has praised the energy group for the significant turnaround in its investment in skills development.  During the 2016 AGM shareholder activist Theo Botha criticised the board for cutting back on investing in employee learning and reducing the number of employees receiving leadership training, as well as for reducing its bursary schemes.  Investment in black employees was also cut, from a high of R653m in 2014 to a low of R399m in 2016.  The cutbacks were reversed in 2017, with investment in employee learning shooting up 43% to R970m from R678m.  Investment in employee learning increased to 5.1% of payroll from 4.1% and investment in the bursary scheme rose to R53m from R49.22m.  In addition, investment in black employees recovered to R500m.  The 2017 Sustainability Report presented a much better picture, commented Botha.

More retrenchments possible at Group Five

Further retrenchments are possible at Group Five following the revision by the listed construction and engineering group of its strategy. The group reported last week that it would migrate its construction operations into streamlined, smaller businesses that had a competitive advantage and planned to dispose of its manufacturing businesses in due course. CE Themba Mosai confirmed this week that those businesses that did not fit the revised strategy would be exited, ideally through a sale. But Mosai conceded that some businesses might need to be closed, which would have an impact on employment by the group. It would only be able to provide more information once the market had been updated. Mosai advised that the group’s manufacturing business employed about 700 people and if it sold that business, the people would be sold with the business because they were key. But he stressed he could not speak for a potential buyer in terms of their plans after the sale. The group has already undertaken several restructuring and retrenchment programmes in recent years.

REMUNERATION AND EMPLOYEE BENEFITS

Government Employees Pension Fund (GEPF) ‘over-exposed’ to SA economy

Abel Sithole, principal executive officer of the Government Employees Pension Fund (GEPF), said on Tuesday that the fund was ‘over-exposed’ to the South African economy and this needed to be addressed. The GEPF had an exposure of close to R500bn in local bonds issued by government and state-owned entities (SOEs) as at the end of March 2017. Its exposure in Eskom alone was R84bn.

Government must leave UIF money alone – Cosatu

Labour federation Cosatu said on Monday that it would reject the proposed ring-fencing of R50bn from the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) for technical and vocational education and training (TVET) colleges. The Fees Commission that investigated the feasibility of free tertiary education has recommended that surplus money from the UIF be used to fund infrastructure development at TVET colleges. Should President Jacob Zuma adopt the recommendations as they stand, the use of UIF funds would have to be tabled at the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac). Cosatu said it would oppose the recommendation there. It added that, while it supported free education in principle, government must “stay away from workers’ money”.

NHI ‘will require trade-offs’ in form of finances taken from other projects

The National Health Insurance (NHI) was not feasible without sustained economic growth and it required so much money there would have to be trade-offs with other spending plans such as expanding access to tertiary education. This was the warning from the Davis tax committee on Monday. NHI is the government’s policy for implementing universal healthcare, which it promises will provide all with services that are free at the point of service. The committee, which is headed by Judge Dennis Davis, released six reports on various aspects of tax administration, including one on NHI. The committee expressed concern about the lack of clarity on how NHI would be implemented and operated, saying more details were needed to understand its resource requirements. It consequently stopped short of making firm recommendations on ways of financing NHI, saying to do so would be premature.

COMMUNITY

No arrests yet for torching of Bapo tribal offices

No arrests have yet been made following the arson attack on the Bapo-Ba-Mogale tribal office in Bapong near Brits on Thursday and investigations continue. The tribal office was torched by irate members of the Unemployed Forum after they were allegedly not paid for three weeks. They had been employed by the tribal authority to clean graveyards, roads and government buildings in a poverty alleviation project. They were ultimately paid late on Friday night. The Bapo-Ba-Mogale Traditional Council strongly condemned the torching of the tribal offices and said it had noted with great regret the carnage manifesting itself within the Bapo community.

The non-payment had been because money normally paid over to the Bapo community in November had not been released by platinum producer Lonmin, which cited letters addressed to President Jacob Zuma from the community and the Mining Forum of SA. The two groups had requested the suspension of Lonmin’s mining operation for failing to comply with its social and labour commitments. Lonmin indicated that it has awarded significant procurement contracts with a combine gross value of R1.65 billion to the Bapo Ba Mogale.

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