INDUSTRIAL ACTION

Dis-Chem strike at head office and distribution centre

About 760 employees of pharmacy group Dis-Chem went on strike last Monday at its Midrand distribution centre and head office but trading and operations at its 131 stores were not affected.  Apparently less than 6% of the total workforce is affected. The strike by the members of the National Union of Public Service and Allied Workers (Nupsaw), relates to union organisational rights as well as disagreement on decisions relating to discretionary bonus payments to a portion of its members.

Fawu wage strike at Tongaat Hulett Starch Division

About 300 members of the Food and Allied Workers Union (Fawu) were on Friday after 18 days still on strike regarding wages at Tongaat Hulett Starch Division.  Fawu is demanding a 10.5% wage increase, while Tongaat Hulett offered 6.25% during a meeting of the parties facilitated by the CCMA.  Fawu’s other demands relate to long service awards and overtime pay.

Nehawu wage strike at Durban University of Technology

Amidst student registrations, Durban University of Technology (DUT) employees went on strike this week demanding a 10% annual salary increase.  DUT is offering a 4% annual salary increase, which the National Education Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) has described as an insult.

REMUNERATION AND EMPLOYEE BENEFITS (INCL WAGE NEGOTIATIONS)

Update on government salary negotiations

Government is currently offering employees in the lowest 10 salary levels a consumer price index (CPI) salary increase (5,3%), while it has proposed that the two levels of middle management get pay hikes of CPI minus 1%. The SA Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) became the first to reject the offer stating that politicians gave themselves more than that as a pay hike.   The University of Stellenbosch’s Bureau for Economic Research (BER) has forecast 5% inflation this year and expects it to increase to 5.3% next year.  The unions representing public servants are demanding salary increases of between 10% and 12% depending on the salary level.

University of the Witwatersrand wage negotiations

University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) vice-chancellor Adam Habib on Wednesday urged labour unions to exercise restraint in their wage demands, saying the institution had a responsibility to ensure that salary increases did not compromise the university’s financial stability. He noted that Wits’ offer of a 6.8% increase was the second-highest offer in the higher education sector, and was 1.8% points above inflation.  Four unions, Asawu‚ Nehawu, ALTSA and Numsa, have threatened to strike over salary increases, the university’s new performance management system and medical aid benefits.  They are seeking an 8% increase, and an additional 1% to cover increased medical scheme premiums.

Domestic workers reject minimum pay increase

The union representing domestic workers has rejected the government’s increase in the minimum wage for domestic workers as contained in the recent amendment to the applicable sectoral determination.  According to the figures set out by the Department of Labour (DOL), domestic workers who work 27 hours a week or more must be paid a monthly minimum of R2,545.22 (Area A) or R2317.75 (Area B).  This is a 5% increase on the 2017’s rates.  The SA Domestic Service and Allied Workers Union’s Gloria Kente said:  “Why must we earn less than other sectors?  Domestic workers always get a small increase.  We want the National Minimum Wage of R3,500.  We work hard.”  The DOL’s deputy director for employment standards, Mathilda Bergmann, said: “Due to the introduction of the National Minimum Wage which will be implemented on May 1, 2018, the Employment Conditions Commission recommended that the minimum wage levels for domestic workers be increased by the headline CPI.”

Transnet tables an ‘absolute final’ wage offer

Based on its “difficult” financial situation, Transnet has tabled a revised three-year wage offer, which it has termed “absolute final”.  Transnet has proposed a 6.5%, 7.25% and 7.5% increase in 2018, 2019 and 2020 respectively.  Along with this, it has proposed a 4.5% increase each year in the housing allowance over the next three years and a 5.5%, 6% and 6.5% increase in the medical aid allowance in 2018, 2019 and 2020 respectively.  The United National Transport Union (UNTU) will now embark on a mandate process with its membership and inform Transnet at the next wage negotiations on 1 February whether its members have accepted or declined the offer.

EMPLOYMENT AND LABOUR ECONOMICS MATTERS

Denel provide certainty that it can pay staff in January

Cash-strapped, state-owned arms manufacturer Denel says that although it is still finalising a plan to tackle its liquidity challenges, it will pay salaries and suppliers in January.  With the deadline for the company’s payroll looming, staff and service providers are concerned that salaries and bills will not be paid.  Denel received an emergency government loan guarantee of R580m in December to pay its 4,000 employees and suppliers.  However, it is unclear how the company will raise funds to fulfil its obligations.  The Treasury provided the guarantee to Denel to resolve its “immediate funding crisis”, but required that parastatal needed to put a credible strategy in place.  The United Association of SA’s Willie van Eeden has requested a meeting with the company’s management to hear how it plans to pay workers and suppliers.  He said the union was in the dark about where Denel would get the funds.  Although Denel did not answer questions, spokeswoman Pamela Malinda did say it would pay salaries and suppliers “within agreed terms”.

Eskom gives assurance that it will be able to pay salaries

Although there are great concern amongst unions about Eskom’s cash flow crisis, the state-owned power utility has given the assurance that it will be able to pay salaries.  Spokesperson Dikatso Mothae said that while the group’s cash liquidity levels were below target, salaries would be able to be paid out of normal cash flows.  Mothae also said that Eskom was committed to improving its liquidity levels and restoring positive investment and financial sentiment in order to unlock entry to financial markets.  Mothae’s comments came after the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) on Monday threatened to suspend trading of Eskom bonds because the company had not issued its interim results on time.  Eskom gave the undertaking that it would supply its results before the JSE’s deadline of 31 January.  Analysts reckon that Eskom’s biggest hurdle is the refinancing of its debt.

LEGAL, SAFETY AND COMPLIANCE

Competition Tribunal bars Lewis from retrenching for two years

The merger between furniture companies Lewis and United Furniture Outlets (UFO) has been granted by the Competition Tribunal, on condition that there are no merger-related retrenchments for the next two years (this is an arrangement that has become fairly common in recent years).  Following a hearing on 10 January, the matter was stood down to give time for further submissions to be made by the SA Commercial Catering and Allied Workers’ Union (Saccawu), which was concerned that the merger would lead to layoffs.  According to the union, Lewis had embarked on retrenchments in anticipation of the merger as an attempt to reduce the duplication of functions.  Previously the Competition Commission had concluded that retrenchments were unlikely to happen, but referred the matter to the Tribunal to make a final ruling.  The R320m merger, announced by Lewis in October 2017, will see the company acquire UFO in an effort to diversify its offering.  The merger will come into effect from 1 February 2018.

Transport union UNTU scores big safety victory for workers on Cape Town’s Central Line

United National Transport Union (UNTU) has scored a significant victory with the Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa) agreeing to provide police escorts for its staff members on Cape Town’s Central Line.  UNTU and Prasa were locked in meetings last Tuesday, negotiating terms under which to reopen the notorious line which runs between Khayelitsha and Mitchells Plain to the CBD.  The busy line was suspended a week ago following the murder of a security guard at a station in Khayelitsha.  In terms the agreement, UNTU said its members would only operate on the Central Line if, among other things, there were two police officers escorting the train driver, two police officers escorting the metro train guard, a police officer in the middle cab as back up, and armed guards at turnaround stations.  UNTU’s Steve Harris said if Prasa or the SA Police Service failed to adhere to the agreement, the train service on the Central Line would be suspended again.  The service was resumed on Wednesday afternoon.

Man in Brits court on charge of attempted murder of an Amcu leader

A 36-year-old taxi driver accused of the attempted murder of an Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) leader appeared briefly in the Brits Magistrate’s Court last Tuesday.  The case against Simphiwe Silwane was postponed to 1 February, for a bail application to be heard before a new magistrate.  The magistrate recused himself because he became aware that Silwane was linked to a case he had previously presided over.  Silwane is accused of shooting at the Amcu branch chairman at Western Platinum, Malibongwe Mdazo, on 22 July, in Mooinooi near Brits.  Silwane was arrested in Lusikisiki in the Eastern Cape in December.  Silwane has been charged together with Nkosinathi Mantashe and Samkelo Mkhutshwa.  Mantashe is out on R10,000 bail and Mkhutshwa on R2,500 bail.  They are expected to again appear in the Brits Magistrates’ Court on 31 January.  A large number of Amcu members in their green union T-shirts attended the court proceeding.

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