Dis-Chem strike ended
Dis-Chem Pharmacies reached an agreement with the National Union of Public Service and Allied Workers (Nupsaw) to end a week-long strike regarding organisational rights. The agreement allows Nupsaw organisational rights at the appropriate level of workforce representation, which is aligned with those that are in existence with Dis-Chem’s various other unions. Nupsaw is an affiliate of the SA Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu). In addition to the dispute over organisational rights, the union had a disagreement on decisions relating to discretionary bonus payments to a portion of its members in December 2017.
National traffic police on illegal strike
Members of the National Traffic Police have refused to leave their deployment base in Midrand‚ north of Johannesburg‚ thereby embarking on an impromptu illegal strike to voice workplace grievances. The officers have been on a go-slow since last Monday‚ with half of the 40 officers per shift going out to enforce national traffic laws. This apparently had no effect so they went on an illegal strike. The officers said they were treated in an inhumane manner and have no proper equipment to carry out their duties. One of the burning issues is that they have been moved from their offices in Faerie Glen‚ Pretoria East‚ and “dumped” in open veld near Midrand‚ with a single mobile toilet for about 40 female and male officers. The fenced-off open area‚ adjacent to the SA National Roads Agency offices in Samrand‚ does not have a shelter and the officers have to take refuge in their cars to escape the blazing sun. The officers also complained that they were not consulted whenever decisions affecting their lives were taken, claiming that shifts were changed at a drop of a hat. A number of other were identified. The officers vowed to remain on the base until their grievances were resolved.
About 8,000 employees at various universities striking
Over eight thousand university workers affiliated with the National Education Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) have commenced strike action in one way or the other over wage increases, disrupting academic proceedings across various universities. The strikes involve workers from the University of SA (Unisa), the Durban University of Technology (DUT), the University of Pretoria (UP) and the University of Witwatersrand (Wits). Despite the demands varying in terms of salary increases and working conditions, the national demands include “a decent living wage of 10% across board”, Nehawu spokesperson Khaya Xaba indicated. Reports indicated that Unisa went to court to nullify the strike when Nehawu refused to accept its 7% wage increase offer as against the union’s 10% demand. However, the court ruled that the strike was legal. Deputy Minister of Higher Education Buti Manamela visited the Unisa main campus in Pretoria on Wednesday to consult and engage with management and Nehawu on the state of readiness ahead of the academic year. He expressed concerns about the impact the dispute would have on registration and preparations for the academic year, while urging both parties to ensure negotiations were speedily concluded.
REMUNERATION AND EMPLOYEE BENEFITS (INCL WAGE NEGOTIATIONS)
New minimum wages for farm, forestry employees from 1 March 2018
The Department of Labour has announced that minimum wages for employees in the farm and forestry sectors are set to increase by 5.6% from 1 March 2018. In terms of the applicable sectoral determination, the minimum wage will increase to R3,169.19 per month, up from the R3,001.13 in 2017/18. The weekly minimum wage will henceforth be R731.41. The daily minimum wage for employees will be R146.28, while the hourly minimum wage will be R16.25 – an increase from R15.39 in 2017/18.
Increase of 6% for Councillors in Buffalo City Metro
Buffalo City Metro councillors are to get salary increases of up to 6%, backdated to July last year. At a special meeting next Wednesday mayor Xola Pakati is expected to urge council to approve the recently gazetted salary increases, as well as allowances and benefits for its 100 councillors. The increase was published in a government gazette notice on 15 December by the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Des Van Rooyen.
PSA union, PIC to pursue class action against Steinhoff
The Public Servants Association (PSA) said on Thursday that it had teamed up with Steinhoff’s second-largest shareholder, the Public Investment Corporation (PIC), to pursue a class action lawsuit against the global retailer. The aim would be to recoup around R17 billion of public sector pensioners’ monies wiped out in the wake an accounting scandal. Steinhoff, owner of more than 40 retail brands including Poundland in Britain, admitted “accounting irregularities” last month, triggering an 85% share slide.
EMPLOYMENT AND LABOUR ECONOMICS MATTERS
Consumer inflation at 4.7% in December
Consumer inflation edged up as expected in December 2017, as a result of the fuel price increase but was counterbalanced by lower inflation elsewhere, including food. The consumer price index (CPI) rose 4.7% in December 2017 compared with December 2016, Statistics SA announced last Wednesday. That follows a 4.6% year-on-year increase in November. That meant inflation for all of last year averaged 5.3%, down significantly from 6.3% in 2016.
A strong rand is curbing the gold rally for South African mines
For South African gold miners the metal started the year rising 4% to date and trading near the highest since August 2016. But an equally impressive rally in the rand means that SA-focused producers are likely to miss out on the party. Because mining companies pay most of their expenses in local currency, a stronger rand squeezes profit margins and can render some operations unprofitable. Many of SA’s gold mines are old and much of the easily accessible metal has been exhausted, while labour-intensive mining methods compound the effect of currency moves.
LEGAL, SAFETY AND COMPLIANCE
National Minimum Wage Initiative objects to bill’s exclusion of contractors
There is mounting fear amongst labour organisations and academics that the national minimum wage (NMW) legislation will exclude even more vulnerable workers than stipulated due to its design. The proposed legislation defines a “worker” as an employee in accordance with the Basic Conditions of Employment Act, which does not cover “independent contractors” who perform “task-based work, piecework, homework, subcontracting and contract work”. Wits University’s National Minimum Wage Initiative has objected to the exclusions in its submission to Parliament, arguing that applying the existing definition of “employee” posed a significant risk to workers who were in “danger of working long hours with the equivalent of low hourly wages”. It noted that the move was contrary to international trends, existing agreements and recommendations of a panel of experts that researched the feasibility of NMW policy. If implemented, the policy would fail to address changing trends in the workplace, with experts pointing to an increase in outsourcing by employers.
Court strikes down law prohibiting protests without notice by groups or 15 or more people
The Western Cape High Court ruled last Wednesday that groups of 15 or more people will, in future, be allowed to assemble in a peaceful gathering without notice. The groundbreaking ruling followed a Social Justice Coalition (SJC) appeal challenging the constitutionality of section 12(1)(a) of the Regulation of Gatherings Act, which provides that organisers of gatherings with more than 15 people are required to submit a notice to protest to the city authorities. Judge Thandazwa Ndita also set aside the convictions of ten SJC members charged with contravening the Act in September 2013 after a peaceful protest outside the civic centre in Cape Town. The police argued before the court that notice of intention to protest was necessary to allow for authorities to plan ahead and ensure that gatherings were managed in an orderly manner with minimal disruption. But in her ruling, Ndita said: “The criminalisation of a gathering of more than 15 people on the basis that no notice was given violates the Constitution as it deters people from exercising their fundamental constitutional right to assemble peacefully unarmed. In my judgment the limitation is not reasonable and justifiable in an open democratic society, based on the values of freedom, dignity and equality.”
Court enforces restraint of trade agreement
The High Court in Pretoria has ruled that a health and safety training company has the right to enforce a 12-month restraint of trade agreement against a former star employee and the rival company she joined on resigning. The court confirmed an earlier ruling interdicting a former sales executive at Action Training Academy (ATA), Marelize Coetzee, from remaining in the employ of rival company Absolute Health Services (AHS) without the consent of ATA’s director. Coetzee was also interdicted from using or disclosing any of her former employer’s confidential information at any time. Coetzee, who had won the salesperson of the year award in 2016, left ATA in July last year. When ATA discovered, by chance, that Coetzee had started working for a new rival company, they sought an undertaking that she would not breach the restraint of trade agreement she had signed and would stop working for AHS, but she refused. She claimed ATA had repudiated their contract of employment and could no longer rely on the “unreasonable” confidentiality undertaking. But the judge found that Coetzee had signed the restraint of trade agreement and must honour undertaking she had made.
COMMUNITIES AND UNION POLITICS
ANCYL to illegally piggyback on Friday’s ‘Vat Alles’ march in Tshwane by ex-EPWP employees
The ANCYL Greater Tshwane region maintains they have applied to the City of Tshwane for their planned mass shutdown on Friday, but Tshwane metro police (TMPD) only approved an application from a group called “All Tshwane Vat Alles Employees”. A TMPD spokesperson said: “The request by ‘All Tshwane Vat Alles Employees’ received a thorough consideration which followed by an approval, granted by TMPD. The TMPD has noted information doing the rounds about another protest action by ANCYL scheduled for Friday… In respect of this march, no application was received from ANCYL as the law dictates, therefore, the publicized protest will be treated as illegal in the event it takes place as professed.”
Flyers have been circulating on social media of a #TshwaneShutdown by the ANCYL on Friday, to demand the reinstatement of 11,000 Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) Vat Alles workers, the appointment of thousands of security guards who were left unemployed last year when a contract between the city and contracted security companies came to an end, the cutting down of high rental rates and an end to harassment of informal traders.