INDUSTRIAL ACTION

Numsa strike at Whirlpool

The National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) condemned what it called attempts by household appliances maker Whirlpool to bully it into signing an agreement to end ongoing industrial action.  As many as 900 workers, including non-union members, have been on strike since 6 November over housing assistance demands. Numsa said the company had proposed a housing allowance of R150 per month, against the workers’ demand for R500.

WAGE AND OTHER LABOUR NEGOTIATIONS

Chamber of Mines Coal producers and Num

The Chamber of Mines, on behalf of coal mining members of the central bargaining forum at the Chamber, and the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) signed a three-year agreement. This follows an earlier agreement with Solidarity and UASA..  The Agreement with the Num however does not cover Kangra Coal, where a strike is possible this coming week. The final agreement is effective 1 July 2017, in terms of which:

  • Entry-level to operator employees employed at the larger companies will receive increases, some on a once-off basis and others staggered over two payments, of R1,100 in the first year and guaranteed increases of between 7.5% and 8.5% in the second and third years.
  • Entry-level to operator employees employed at the smaller companies will receive increases ranging between 6 and 7.5% in the first year, and guaranteed increases ranging between 6% and 7.5%, and in other cases, CPI+1%, in the second and third years.

According to the NUM, previous plans by the Chamber members to depart from centralised bargaining for the next set of coal wage negotiations has been ditched.

Public service wage talks

Public service unions have entered the 2017 wage negotiations with tough demands that include the abolishment of the bottom three salary levels in the public service, as well as the lifting of the moratorium on the filling of vacancies.  The unions want the salaries of employees from levels four to seven to be raised by 12%, employees from levels eight to 10 by 11% and those on levels 11 and 12 by 10%.

EMPLOYMENT AND OTHER LABOUR MATTERS

Consumer inflation slows to 4.8% in October

Consumer inflation dipped in October, in part due to smaller fuel price increases and a continued moderation of food inflation.  The consumer price index (CPI) rose 4.8% in October from a year earlier, after a 5.1% increase in September.  Compared with a month earlier, consumer inflation rose 0.3% in October, slower than the 0.5% month-on-month increase reported in September.  CPI inflation has been within the Bank’s 3%-6% target band since April, thanks in large part to lower food inflation, which has come down steadily since returning to single digits in February, as a severe drought eased in most parts of the country.  The October fuel price increase was also smaller than that in September.  The CPI for goods rose 4.1% in October from a year earlier, and the CPI for services was up 5.5% on the year.

National Assembly approves sugar tax

The bill providing for the implementation of a tax on sugary beverages was passed by the National Assembly last week.  The measure will be introduced in April 2018 and came after extensive public hearings by Parliament’s finance and health committees as well as negotiations within the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) on an implementation plan.  An interdepartmental committee consisting of the Treasury and the departments of economic development‚ agriculture‚ trade and industry and labour also worked on a mitigation strategy to limit the effects of the levy on sugary beverages.  A task team will monitor the implementation of the health promotion levy to assess its effect on job losses.  It will also look at a range of government programmes to provide support to the industry.  The sugar industry opposed the levy on the grounds that it would contribute to the loss of jobs, but the Treasury and the Department of Health argued it was necessary to deal with obesity and the epidemic of non-communicable diseases.

Distribution and Warehousing Network (Dawn) retrenchments

Distribution and Warehousing Network (Dawn), the listed manufacturer and distributor of plumbing and hardware brands, has retrenched about 1,300 people in the past two years.  It handed retrenchments notices to a further 143 people in its Wholesale Housing Supplies (WHS) business a week ago.  Chief executive Edwin Hewitt said that Dawn had done most of the retrenchments and that the group was now at break-even.  It expected to be profitable by its 2019 financial year.  The group said the retrenchments were necessary to right-size its DPI business, a leading manufacturer of PVC and HDPE piping systems for water reticulation and conveyance, which resulted in the closure of the DPI factory in Bellville.

Government plans to reduce number of Setas through mergers

Government is looking to reduce the number of sector education and training authorities (Setas) as part of broader plans to revamp the post-school education and training system.  There are currently 21 Setas, which cover all work sectors.  They are tasked with creating opportunities in the form of internships, skills programmes and apprenticeships and they control billions of rand via a skills levy derived from employers.  However, the Setas have often been criticised for inefficiency, being a haven for corruption and for enrolling ghost students.  They have also come under fire for failing to address the country’s skills deficit.  Officials from the Department of Higher Education and Training told MPs that as part of plans to improve efficiency and avoid duplication, there was a proposal to reduce the number of Setas.  It could result in Setas that focus on similar sectors merging, such as the AgriSeta and the Food and Beverage Manufacturing Industry Seta, as well as the finance, banking and insurance Setas.  A government gazette in this regard would be issued for public comment in 2018, in order to gazette the legislation and institutional arrangements by 2019.

Recruitment drive for new EPWP programme launched by Tshwane

Tshwane mayor Solly Msimanga did a walkabout at Denlyn Shopping Centre, in Mamelodi West, last Monday to recruit the jobless to register for the improved Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP).  The roadshow, which will continue throughout the week across all poverty-stricken areas in the capital, is to potentially recruit 23,000 EPWP workers to begin the programme in January.  Msimanga said the programme was to employ workers on a temporary or contract basis with the intention of transferring skills and providing a “much-needed” income.  In September, the council approved a revised EPWP framework for the current financial year after the programme had become tarnished over the years for being synonymous with nepotism and patronage on the basis of political affiliation.  The programme’s central database would also be used by the city to store information of interested, unemployed residents, Msimanga indicated.

SA students win international prize with job finding app

A group of South African students has won the 2017 Geneva Challenge Prize after they developed an app for jobseekers.  The app, called Umvozu, also allows employers to access the job characteristics on the app to make better decisions on whom to employ.  “The whole team is very honoured.  Unemployment, closely linked to skill deficiency, is a serious issue in South Africa (so) the project gives us an opportunity to change someone’s life forever,” said team member Boitumelo Dikoko.  The GC: Advancing Development International Student Competition encourages Masters students to propose solutions to world problems.  This year, the challenge was to explore employment’s role in fostering social development and 135 projects were submitted.  The winning teams got 10000 Swiss francs (R1.4million), 5000 francs and 2500 francs.

Shortage of social workers

A shortfall in qualified, practising social workers in SA has resulted in NGOs upskilling to pick up the slack.  In the past five years more than 3,500 people from 300 NGOs have received training from the Community Chest Capacity Building in areas from basic organisational development to courses on project management and financial literacy.  The programmes have aimed at uplifting NGOs by providing them with skills to access funding and operate effectively.  There are currently 30,271 social workers registered with the SA Council for Social Services Profession, but not all practise.  According to Capacity Building programme manager Yumna Martin, the delivery of basic social welfare services is hindered by a huge shortfall in social worker numbers, estimated to be about 77%.  “In this context, the work of NGOs becomes critical to fill the gap and provide support to those in need,” Martin said.  According to the National Development Plan, SA needs 55,000 social services practitioners, including social workers, by 2030.

LEGAL

Gold mining silicosis case on track for out-of-court settlement

Lawyers acting for thousands of miners who contracted fatal lung diseases silicosis and tuberculosis in mines indicated last week that settlement talks with implicated gold companies for an out-of-court deal could be reached by December.  The High Court last year set the stage for protracted proceedings on cases dating back decades in the largest class action suit yet in SA.   Many of the nearly half a million miners who contracted the fatal lung diseases are from nearby countries who supplied labour to SA mines.  Gold miners are appealing that ruling, while at the same time, six of the firms, including Anglo American, AngloGold Ashanti and Sibanye are holding settlement talks with the workers.  Richard Spoor and Charles Abrahams, lawyers for the afflicted miners, told parliament’s mineral resources committee that significant progress had been made in those discussions.  “The parties are reasonably confident that a settlement will be achieved in the course of this year,” they said.  Any settlement reached will have to be confirmed by a High Court.

Doctor arrested for allegedly selling medical certificates

A 62-year-old doctor was arrested for allegedly selling medical certificates in Rustenburg, the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (Hawks) in North West said.  Hawks spokesperson Captain Tlangelani Rikhotso said the doctor, who practises as a homoeopath, was arrested at Wildebeest farm.  “The suspect was arrested by the Hawks following a complaint alleging that she is selling medical certificates to patients.  She is alleged to issue medical certificates without prior examination at a consultation fee of R300.”

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