INDUSTRIAL ACTION

EPWP workers end strike in eThekwini

The eThekwini Municipality’s refuse removal services had resumed work after its Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) employees reported to work.  Friday a week ago hundreds of eThekwini’s EPWP workers embarked on a strike demanding to be employed by the City on full-time basis and demanding an increase to their R2,500 salary per month.  During their strike, the EPWP workers trashed the city’s roads and prevented some Cleaning and Solid Waste Unit employees from executing their duties.

Last Monday, the municipality gave all striking EPWP workers an ultimatum to report to work for the evening shift or risk having their contracts terminated.  This followed “extensive” consultations which had taken place on Sunday.  The refuse removal backlog is expected to be cleared by the end of the week.

REMUNERATION AND EMPLOYEE BENEFITS (INCL WAGE NEGOTIATIONS)

Nehawu prepares for strike at NSFAS
The National Education Health & Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) is preparing for a strike at the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) following failed negotiations in the bargaining council.  Among the union’s demands are a review of the salary structure for levels 1 to 12, the medical aid subsidy to extend to parents of the NSFAS employees, full-time employment of workers who are currently on fixed term contracts, a review of the organisational rights agreement, elevation of lowest paid cleaners from level 2 to level 3, and finalisation of the job evaluations process.  Bargaining council meetings in September and October 2017 were apparently “fruitless exercises”.

The union further believes that a recently announced decision by NSFAS to centralise its application system “will have serious impact on the livelihoods of the staff employed in financial aid offices in universities and TVET colleges as they will end up being deemed surplus to requirements.”  Claiming that the employer had left workers with no option but to go on strike, the union added that it was “an unfortunate and painful decision to take, considering that it might affect working class and poor students who have to apply to NSFAS for funding for the 2018 academic year.”

EMPLOYMENT AND LABOUR ECONOMIC MATTERS

Numsa calls for workers to unite in fight for living wage, right to strike

The National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) called on all “members of the working class” to unite in a fight for a living wage and to defend the right to strike.  This was with reference to the government’s intention from May this year to implement changes to the Labour Relations Act and the Basic Conditions of Employment Act and also to implement a national minimum wage of R20 per hour. Cabinet last year approved the draft legislation that will bring in a national minimum wage, but it must still be approved by Parliament before it becomes law.

Competition Tribunal orders Lewis to submit affidavit on link between layoffs and UFO acquisition

The Competition Tribunal ordered retailer Lewis Group to submit an affidavit pertaining to its acquisition of high-end furniture retailer United Furniture Outlets (UFO).  This followed the SA Commercial, Catering and Allied Workers’ Union’s (Saccawu’s) submission at the tribunal, in which it argued that a link existed between Lewis retrenching hundreds of workers and thereafter acquiring UFO.  The Competition Commission (CC) submitted that there were no competition concerns arising from the proposed merger and that it was unlikely that a link existed between Lewis retrenching and then acquiring UFO.  Its recommendation to the Tribunal was that the UFO acquisition should be approved on condition that the merging parties did not retrench employees as a result of the transaction for two years from the date of the merger.  But Saccawu’s Khulekani Ngubane claimed that Lewis had since December 2016 retrenched about 400 employees in anticipation of the UFO transaction and that the retrenchments were meant to “smoothen up” the deal in an attempt to reduce the duplication of functions once the merger was concluded.  Competition Tribunal chairperson Norman Manoim concurred that they did not have information on the Lewis decision to start retrenchments and the timing of the acquisition and whether the two issues were linked.  He ordered Lewis to submit an affidavit in that regard.

One in four matrics likely to find a job quickly

According to well-known economist Mike Schüssler, fewer than a quarter of matrics find jobs relatively quickly.  He cautioned that those members of the matric class of 2017 who will not be studying further, but will be looking for a job, will not be easily absorbed by the job market. “Over 50% of our matriculants under the age of 34 have not found permanent employment and it’s not getting better.  This is part of the process young job seekers go though.  It takes long to get a first job – even for those with a degree it takes a while.”  The overall unemployment rate in SA is nearly 28% in the narrow sense (excluding people out of work, but still actively searching) and 37% in broader terms (including those who have given up looking for a job).  For young people this figure is much higher, with Schüssler estimating it to be well over 50%.  “To get your first job is probably one of the hardest things in life and often takes a while.  If you have not had a job, you are regarded as not having ‘proven’ yourself yet,” explained Schüssler.  His message to matrics was that “a job is a job”.

LEGAL, SAFETY AND COMPLIANCE

Silicosis class action appeal on hold

In a clear sign that a multibillion-rand settlement between gold mining companies and lawyers representing tens of thousands of former mine workers with silicosis is near, both sides have asked for and have been granted a postponement of an appeal at the Supreme Court of Appeal.  The settlement, estimated to be in the region of R5bn, will be paid into a trust that will be used to locate about 100,000 former mine workers with the crippling lung disease caused by inhaling silica dust in gold mines.  The trust will assess their health and make payments to them.  The parties said in a letter dated 15 December 2017 that all the appellants and all the respondents had requested the indefinite postponement of an appeal brought by the mining companies against a court ruling that the matter could be classified as a class action because “most of the parties are engaged in good faith settlement negotiations which have reached an advanced stage”.  The class action against African Rainbow Minerals, Anglo American SA, AngloGold Ashanti, Gold Fields, Harmony and Sibanye Stillwater was launched in 2012 for past and current workers afflicted by silicosis and occupational tuberculosis.  It was brought by well-known human rights lawyer Richard Spoor,

Q(h)ubeka Trust has awarded R102m out of R395m to qualifying ex-mineworkers

The trust formed in 2016 to compensate a group of former Anglo American SA (AASA) and AngloGold Ashanti (AGA) employees who suffer from silica-related illnesses has already distributed about R102m of a R395m settlement.  The Q(h)ubeka Trust was established following the successful conclusion of a lengthy compensation battle on behalf of 4,365 former mineworkers who might be suffering from silica-related occupational lung diseases.  Many of the former mineworkers from SA, Swaziland and Lesotho contracted silicosis while working for various mines owned by AASA and AGA.  The trust has until April 2019 to complete medical assessments of all claimants and make the first tranche of compensation payments to qualifying claimants.  To date, about 2,350 of the 4,365 claimants have undergone the medical assessments, Q(h)ubeka Trust chairperson Dr Sophia Kisting-Cairncross advised.  Following the first tranche, the trust will make a second tranche of payments for the distribution of the remaining settlement funds that were not paid out in the first tranche to the qualifying claimants and the family members of qualifying deceased claimants.  Compensation under the trust is separate from the class action suit that is currently under way against various SA gold mining companies, inclusive of AASA and AGA (Report adapted from Mining Weekly)

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