INDUSTRIAL ACTION

United Association of SA and Denel

The United Association of SA (Uasa) is seeking a mandate from workers at Denel about the legal action they want taken against the company for withholding their “self-funded” bonuses. The state-owned entity failed to pay employees the 13th cheque towards which they had contributed during 2017.  The union also expressed concern about Denel’s ability to pay employees their December salaries, as indications were that the financially unstable company’s situation has deteriorated.  Denel reacted by saying it was awaiting guidance from the Treasury before it could confirm when the payments would be made.

Feedback session for Uber drivers ends in standoff

A scheduled feedback session for Uber drivers fearing for their safety went wrong when the company called security, resulting in a standoff outside the Uber offices near the Cape Town International Airport. When asked if Uber had refused to engage with drivers and had sent security out instead, the company said it was “always willing to engage with drivers on an independent basis through the approved support channels”. Group action is therefore not tolerated.

REMUNERATION AND EMPLOYEE BENEFITS (INCLUDING WAGE NEGOTIATIONS)

PSA to proceed with legal action

The Public Servants Association (PSA) is planning to continue with legal action against Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba to protect the pension investments of public servants.  This will be despite a letter from Gigaba asking for a meeting in January with union leaders over the matter.  Gigaba’s continued failure to respond to the substance of the union’s demands left it with no other option, the union said in a statement.

GEPF members lost more than R12bn in Steinhoff selloff

The Public Servants Association (PSA) has called for the safeguarding of pension investments, saying that more than R12 billion has been lost following allegations of accounting irregularities at Steinhoff.

EMPLOYMENT AND LABOUR ECONOMICS MATTERS

800 jobs created in Limpopo by DTI’s Black Industrialist Scheme

A R48 million grant from Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has created 800 jobs in Modjadjiskloof, Limpopo by a food manufacturing company.  The grant came from the DTI’s Black Industrialist Scheme, which aims at growing the global competitiveness of black-owned businesses.  Agro-processing manufacturer Eastern Trading, which trades as Dursot All Joy, received the grant of R48 million.  Dursot All Joy found a niche in the agro-processing sector to the investment value of R120 million.  The R48 million grant afforded Dursot with the means of installing modern technology and their production outcome has tripled.  Local farmers were also benefiting from the scheme.

Work the biggest cause of stress-related illnesses

According to the 2017 Profmed Stress Index, work remains one of the leading drivers of stress-related illnesses among South African professionals.  The index, which is compiled from responses by nearly 3,000 of Profmed’s professional membership base, revealed that apart from financial stresses, 45.5% of respondents still saw work as the biggest contributor to stress in their lives.  The impact of work-related and financial stress can work hand in hand, as both can make an impact on a professional’s lifestyle choices and quality of life.  According to the survey, 10% of respondents indicated that they have taken time off from work due to stress-related illnesses over the past six months.  This was a slight increase from the previous year’s rating of 9.7%.  Another area of concern was the increase in the number of professionals who indicated that they felt they were not managing stress effectively.

South African poultry association highlights work conditions in Brazil

The SA Poultry Association (Sapa) has voiced concern about reports of forced labour and inhuman conditions in Brazil’s meat and poultry industries.  Brazil is the world’s largest exporter of chicken and is the main source of chicken imports to SA.  The Washington-based Institute for Agriculture and Trade and Policy recently said that slave labour in Brazil’s poultry sector was “endemic” and called for improved working conditions, labour rights and the implementation of employment contracts.  Sapa’s Charlotte Nkuna said that they would ask the government to seek an urgent comment from the Brazilian government about the allegations.  “Thousands of South African workers have lost their jobs because of dumped chicken imports from countries, including Brazil, which has now been exposed as a country where workers are subject to degrading working conditions and forced labour,” Nkuna stated.  She said the government should implement an inspection requirement urgently, while Sapa would raise its concerns about reports of slave labour conditions with the International Poultry Council.  SA and Brazil are members of the council.  The SA poultry industry has blamed imports for local job losses and has accused the EU and other regions of dumping.

SARS has lost 506 employees during 2017

The SA Revenue Service (SARS) has lost 506 employees since the start of 2017.  This was revealed in response to a parliamentary question enquiring about the extent of the brain drain at the agency and the reasons for employees leaving.  The response revealed that SARS had lost nearly 7,500 years of experience since the start of the year.  Of those who had left, one had a doctorate, 15 had masters’ degrees, 24 had honours degrees and 88 people had degrees.  Customer service, administration, and auditing lost the highest number of staff members, making up almost half of those who had left the organisation since the start of the year.  Of those who left, 103 departed to pursue other career opportunities, another 81 declined to offer a reason, and 85 said they had left for personal reasons.

Vacant public service posts could affect service delivery

The public service could run into service delivery constraints in the next few years as a tenth of posts in national and provincial government departments are vacant.  Up to 134,919 of the public service’s 1,307,552 posts are vacant, according to the third quarter report on the public service by the Public Service Commission (PSC).  In the period from July to end-September, 74,118 (55%) of the vacancies were at an administrative operating level, while 58,567 were for posts “at the coalface of service delivery”, according to the commission.  The public service also terminated 7,975 appointments compared with making 6,004 new appointments.  This comes amid the Treasury’s efforts to curb spending on the public service by freezing the posts.  Observers have raised concern this could compromise delivery in key functions such as healthcare and education.  The reasons for service terminations include retirement, resignations, abscondment, contract expiry, death and dismissals.  With the pressure for service delivery at odds with the pressure to keep the public service wage bill contained, the Department of Public Service and Administration is expected to have a gruelling round of public wage negotiations.

Education wage bill

An analysis by the Financial Mail reveals that over the past three years provincial education departments have quietly shed 2,800 jobs, or 0.5% of their workforce, yet increased their collective spending on personnel by 22.3%.  Their total compensation for employees, which included non-teaching personnel, rose from R135.6bn in 2013/2014 to R165.9bn in 2016/2017, while the head count fell from 519,817 to 517,018.  The soaring wage bill is already crowding out spending on necessities such as textbooks.  The lion’s share of provincial education budgets is spent on personnel, most of whom are teachers, with allocations ranging from 82.4% of the total in KwaZulu-Natal to 72.7% in Gauteng.  SA Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) general secretary Maluleke Mugwena said the problem stemmed from the pay structure that was introduced to end a month-long public sector strike in 2007.  This included an “occupation-specific dispensation”, which was not fully budgeted for.  Economist Mike Schüssler said the 2007 pay structure introduced so many promotional notches per salary level that a teacher could stay on the same salary level and get an extra percent every year for 20 years, over and above the inflation-linked pay increases nailed down in each wage settlement.  As Treasury noted in the October medium-term budget policy statement, these progressions were intended to reward performance, but they have become largely automatic.

LEGAL AND COMPLIANCE

Auditing firm SekelaXabiso calls on MQA to review all contracts

Auditing firm SekelaXabiso has recommended that the Mining Qualifications Authority (MQA) board review all contracts in a bid to determine compliance with its procedures and its exposure to possible litigation, irregular expenditure or conduct.  Advocate Boyce Mkhize advised that the MQA board should consider an independent forensic audit to investigate the source of bogus e-mails that had cast aspersions on the authority.  He said this would help in dealing with reputational damage already caused to it.  The recommendations come in the wake of claims of procurement irregularities, sexual harassment, improper recruitment, flouting of governance, bribery and fraud against the authority, which is responsible for the administration of skills development programmes in the mining and minerals sector.

.  The MQA approached SekelaXabiso last November to investigate.  Mkhize found various of the allegations to be without basis.  He also cleared acting chief executive Tebogo Mmotla of sexual harassment, saying there was no evidence to support the allegation.  He furthermore dismissed claims of alleged collusive relationship between Mmotla and acting chairperson Mthokozisi Zondi.

COMMUNITY

SA companies contributed R9 billion in corporate social investment in 2016/17

South African companies contributed R9 billion in corporate social investment (CSI) in 2016/2017, compared with that only R1.5bn that was achieved two decades ago.  This information was revealed in the 20th annual publication of Business in Society Handbook, which was launched by CSI consultancy Trialogue.  Of the R9bn in contributions, education accounted for almost half the CSI spend, and this was followed by social and community development and health.  The critical mining, financial and retail sectors accounted for 62% of total CSI expenditure; and median CSI spend increased to R22 million from the R19m registered last year.  The majority of CSI spend was allocated to the economic hubs of Gauteng, Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal.  The proportion of companies (45%) that reported non-cash giving this year was also significantly higher than last year (35%).  Companies mainly directed their CSI spending through non-profit organisations (NPOs), with the percentage of corporate giving to NPOs increasing to 89%, from last year’s 82%.

Government and social partners take integrated healthcare services to Kuruman mineworkers

Mineworkers in the manganese-rich town of Kuruman, in the Northern Cape, are set to benefit from integrated healthcare and social services after government partnered with the mining industry and workers associations to launch a centre last Tuesday.  The One Stop Health Service Centre is aimed at providing integrated services to both active and ex-mineworkers where TB and occupational lung disease assessments as well as administrative services for compensation will be delivered.  The centre was opened by mineral resources deputy minister Godfrey Oliphant on Tuesday, on behalf of Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa.  It is a collaboration by various stakeholders led by government and supported by captains of the mining industry, organised labour and current and ex-mineworker associations with the aim to de-centralise services to claimants and beneficiaries.  One-Stop Centres are located in mining or labour-sending areas, and are designed to provide medical support to ex-mine workers.  The centres also enable government to trace eligible previous and current mineworkers who have not claimed their compensation benefits after they contracted occupational lung disease during the time they were employed at mines.

Ageing Free State gold fields

TimesLive visited the city of Welkom and its neighbouring gold-mining towns and found evidence of a dying local economy‚ with a municipality trying hard to keep the facade from crumbling.  In Welkom central‚ it is not easy to spot the telltale signs of a city in decline‚ but on the outskirts abandoned buildings and stripped-out shops tell a different story.  Smaller towns like Virginia and Odendaalsrus once flourished but are now being abandoned in a slow migration to greener pastures.  In the township of Thabong‚ sewage runs down several roads.  Crime has picked up because every single street lamp along its main road has been cut down and sold for scrap‚ leaving residents in darkness.  Thabong forms part of the Matjhabeng municipality‚ which has gained a reputation for being one of the worst-run municipalities in the country.  Conservative estimates put the number of miners operating unlawfully in the abandoned shafts in and around Matjhabeng at several thousand.  Near Virginia on the outskirts of Welkom‚ eight out of nine gold mines shut down in the late 1990s and early 2000s.  An estimated 100‚000 jobs were lost in the mining sector and support industries based in Welkom.  Schalk van der Merwe of the Goldfields chamber of commerce and provincial chairman of the Small Business Institute commented that the entire gold fields area was rapidly deteriorating‚ and was an example of what other parts of the country could look like in five to 10 years.

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