INDUSTRIAL ACTION

Metalworkers’ union Limusa to continue wage strike at Agni Steel SA

The Liberated Metalworkers Union of SA (Limusa) – who replaced Numsa in Cosatu as the union for members in the engineering and metals industry – indicated that it would proceed indefinitely with its wage strike at Agni Steel SA in Port Elizabeth.  The protected strike follows protracted wage negotiations that started in 2016.  The union was originally demanding R48 per hour, but has now reduced its demand to R40.37 per hour which, according to Limusa, will bring salaries in line with those applicable to the metal and engineering industry.  The company apparently pays workers R24 per hour.  Agni Steel SA is a black-owned, Indian-backed, joint venture that runs a R400 million state-of-the-art, mini-steel mill, at the Coega Industrial Development Zone near Port Elizabeth.  The company employs about 270 people and of those, around 200 are Limusa members. 

SABC wage strike seemingly resolved

The Communication Workers Union (CWU) has accepted the 4,8% offer made by the SABC to be implemented backdated to July 2017. This follows the earlier offer of 4,5% made by the SABC. The Broadcasting, Electronic, Media and Allied Workers’ Union (Bemawu) is still consulting its members. This follows commencement of strike action last Thursday which had minimal impact on the operations of the SABC.

REMUNERATION AND EMPLOYEE BENEFITS (INCL WAGE NEGOTIATIONS)

“Hat-trick” wage agreement at United Manganese of Kalahari

United Manganese of Kalahari (UMK) and the National Union of Mineworkers (Num) concluded a three-year wage agreement, during three negotiating sessions held over a three week period. The agreement provides for 7,5% increases for 2018 whilst increases for 2019 and 2020 are CPI-linked with a minimum guaranteed increase of 7%. The parties are also going to re-visit production bonus systems to align these with best practice and improve line of sight between objectives achieved and bonus payments. Both UMK and the Num indicated that the negotiations were successful in that the parties followed new thinking and focused on effective communication, both up and downwards.

Denel needs R250-million to pay salaries and bonuses

Denel executives met last Tuesday with trade unions to discuss what steps will be taken to ensure that workers’ salaries and bonuses are paid.  This came after the state-owned company failed to pay workers their ‘self-made’ bonuses at the end of November (workers forgo a part of their monthly salary which is then due to be paid out to them at the end of November, which essentially serves as a bonus for December).   According to Denel, the company is in need of R600-million.  Of this amount, approximately R350-million is needed to pay suppliers, while the remaining R250-million is needed to pay salaries and bonuses.  Uasa, one of the unions, indicated that, although the situation was devastating to Denel employees, they would not embark on strike action.

Steinhoff: Concerns about state employees’ pension fund and jobs

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has directed the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC) to launch an investigation into possible non-compliance with the Companies Act by the SA-based global retailer Steinhoff.  This comes after the company faced a near collapse following revelations of financial irregularities, with its share price tumbling by about 80% last week, although there was a modest recovery by Tuesday.  The investigation will start before the end of the year.  The chairperson of the parliamentary finance committee, Yunus Carrim, said the Steinhoff scandal confirmed the need for tighter regulation and monitoring of companies.  “We are concerned not just about the financial losses suffered by the Public Investment Corporation (PIC), the Government Employees Pension Fund (GEPF) and the government employees they represent, but also about the prospects of major job losses for workers in Steinhoff companies,” Carrim pointed out.

State rejects most of the wage review demands made by public sector unions

Government has rejected most of the wage and conditions of employment demands tabled by public sector labour unions at the Public Service Co-ordinating Bargaining Council (PSCBC).  State negotiators told unions that the state could only afford to adjust salaries as per the consumer price index (CPI) for employees on levels one to 10 and by CPI minus 1% for levels 11 and 12.  The proposed increases were not well received by unions, which want the government to increase salaries by 10% for the highest-paid workers and 12% for lowest-paid ones.  The unions have also demanded the phasing out of levels 1 to 3, but the government has rejected this demand too, among a list of others that include a R2,500 hike in the housing allowance and the increase and equalisation of pay progression for all public servants.  Independent Labour Caucus spokesman Basil Manuel said unions looked forward to hearing the government’s rationale for the wage offers, while emphasising that because of the economic challenges in the country, they had not closed the door on talks.  The next meeting of the parties has been set down for January to discuss the government’s offer.

Unions to lodge pay dispute against Wits University

Four labour unions representing workers at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) are due to approach the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) this week, to lodge a wage dispute.  Workers affiliated to the Academic Staff Association of Wits University (Asawu)‚ the Administrative‚ Library and Technical Staff Association (Altsa)‚ the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) and the National Education Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) have rejected a proposed 6.8% salary increase.  Nehawu acting secretary at Wits, Tumisho Madihlaba, said workers were demanding 8%, and if the university failed to meet their request they would go on strike in January next year.  Wits spokesperson Shirona Patel said the institution had not been informed of the CCMA referral yet, but that Wits was willing to participate in the dispute resolution mechanism.  She added that the offer made by management was the best that could be made in present circumstances.

EMPLOYMENT AND LABOUR ECONOMIC MATTERS

Consumer inflation slowed to 4.6%

SA’s consumer inflation rate (CPI) fell for a second month in November as food prices climbed at the slowest pace in two years.  Statistics SA reported on Wednesday that CPI slowed to 4.6% from 4.8% in October.  Price growth has now been within the SA Reserve Bank’s target range of 3% to 6% for eight months, the longest since 2015.  The central bank forecasts that inflation will remain within the target band until at least the end of 2019.  Food prices climbed 5.2% in November from a year earlier, which was the slowest pace since November 2015 and compared with 5.3% in October.  Core inflation, which excludes the prices of food, non-alcoholic beverages, energy and gasoline, slowed to 4.4% in November, which was the slowest rate since May 2012.

AMCU took issue with Sibanye-Stillwater’s buyout of Lonmin

Mineworkers and Construction Union(AMCU) has taken issue with the proposed all-share buyout of platinum miner Lonmin by Sibanye-Stillwater. AMCU’s main concerns are that little or no consultation has taken place with them although they are the majority union at Lonmin, the takeover intensify the “monopolisation of the economy” and that retrenchments could follow at Lonmin.

SA sheds 31,000 more jobs

Employment levels declined again during the third quarter of the year, with an analyst expecting employment to remain flat going forward.  The economy shed 31,000 jobs from 9,620,000 in June 2017 to 9,589,000 in the third quarter of the year, according to the Quarterly Employment Survey (QES) by Statistics SA (Stats SA).  Compared to the same period last year, this was down 0.9%, or 83,000 jobs shed.  The decline was driven by job losses in the community services sector, which were down 0.4%, or 10 000 jobs shed.  Other sectors which lost jobs included manufacturing (down 0.4% – 5,000 jobs), the mining sector (down 1.9% – 9,000 jobs), electricity (down 1.6% – 1,000 jobs), trade (down 0.3% – 7,000 jobs) and business services (down 0.3% – 6,000 jobs).  There were increases in employment in the construction industry, up 4,000, and the transport industry, up 3,000.

LEGAL AND COMPLIANCE

Numsa: Dismissals through scam liquidations common in engineering sector

The practice of companies dismissing employees through alleged fraudulent liquidation scams is playing itself out in a case before the Metal and Engineering Industries Bargaining Council (MEIBC).  Thirty-four former employees of Unique Storage Equipment (USE) in Alberton are taking on Tim van Wyk for supposedly liquidating his company and firing his employees, only to re-register it using another trading name – allegedly with the same assets as the “liquidated” firm.  The National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) asserts that the scam of liquidating companies in order to get rid of employees is common within the metal and engineering industries.  In June last year, Van Wyk told employees he was undergoing voluntary liquidation and would be retrenching staff, but workers realised that their former employer was allegedly still trading under another name – Algoran Alrode Properties.  A default judgment was issued by MEIBC commissioner Mohamed Raffee in February, where Van Wyk was ordered to reinstate the employees and pay them their salaries, backdated to when they were dismissed.  A variation ruling was handed down by Raffee in March relating to the respondent company as USE had allegedly been liquidated.  Van Wyk had also wanted the default judgment rescinded.  Now evidence has emerged of deliveries still being made using the USE trading name.  The workers believe this will strengthen their case for reinstatement and reimbursement.

Midrand strikers may be getting jobs back after dismissals 23 years ago

Nearly 24 years down the line, a number of former Midrand municipal workers who were controversially sacked after a strike in 1994, might be getting their jobs back.  There are reportedly about 280 workers left of the 500 who striked in 1994.  The workers have maintained throughout that the prime reason for their dismissal was that they demanded action against corrupt practices within the council at the time.  Last Tuesday, a number of the surviving strikers presented their documents to the Johannesburg City Council, following discussions on re-employment.  Vacancies for general workers and drivers will apparently be filled by the former strikers.  However, the group is still arguing that their treatment, along with the alleged withholding or misappropriation of pension monies, should be investigated.

COMMUNITY

Suspects in attempted murder of Amcu official in court

Thee men appeared in the Brits Magistrate’s Court last week in connection with the attempted murder of Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) branch chairperson Malibongwe Mdazo.  He was shot five times on 22 July 2017.  National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) member Nkosinathi Mantashe was arrested and released on R10‚000 bail on 8 November in connection with the case.  Police spokesman Brigadier Sabata Mokgwabone said the three suspects who were due to make their first court appearance on Tuesday were linked to the case and were arrested last Sunday.  The ongoing rivalry between Amcu and the NUM has been blamed for a spate of killings in the platinum belt in Rustenburg.  Both unions have distanced themselves from the killings and have condemned the violence.

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