Agreement reached to end Wits University strike

The week-long workers’ strike at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) has been suspended after management and the workers’ unions reached agreement.  The National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) and the National Health Education and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) representing the workers reached agreement that workers in lower level positions would receive a 9.2% increase and those in mid-level positions would receive 7.8%.  Professional and academic staff would receive a 7% increase.  Salary increases will be backdated to 1 January 2018

Wits also agreed to create a task team by April this year to look into lower paid staff members moving up to the midpoint of salary scales.  This would mean that the lowest earning staff member would earn about R124,000 a year as opposed to the current R94,000.  Unions had demanded a minimum wage of R10,000 per month.


First pay rise for Lonmin executives in five years

Platinum producer Lonmin announced that it had increased the salary of its chief executive, Ben Magara, for the first time since October 2013.  The company’s remuneration committee said in its latest annual report that it had decided to award salary increases of 2.9% and 5%, respectively, for Magara and chief financial officer Barrie van der Merwe for the 2018 financial year.  Their benefits and retirement benefits for the coming year would remain substantially unchanged from prior years.  The increases were against the backdrop of SA’s Consumer Price Index (CPI) having been close to 6% at the end of the 2017 financial year.  In terms of incentive outcomes, the remuneration committee had approved a bonus equivalent to 40% for Magara and Van der Merwe.  There were no major changes proposed in respect of short-term incentives for the coming year.  Lonmin is the subject of a takeover bid by Sibanye-Stillwater.

State tables draft agreement in public sector wage negotiations

Government has tabled a draft wage agreement with several proposals favourable to labour unions, seemingly to avoid a dispute and possible strike.  Although there was no agreement on salary hikes, the government has given in to a number of demands, such as the removal of a spousal-benefits restriction that extended housing allowances to only one spouse if a couple was employed in the public service.  In return, unions lowered their demand for housing allowance increases from R2,500 a month to R1,500.  The establishment of a bursary scheme for children of public servants was one of the conditions agreed to, as well as a housing scheme proposal.  Government has offered to hike pay for employees on levels one to seven by inflation (CPI) plus 1.5%; levels eight to 10 by CPI plus 1%; and levels 11 and 12 by CPI only for the first year of the three-year deal.  Unions revised their demands to salary increases of CPI plus 3% for the lowest levels, with a 2% CPI add-on for levels eight to 10 and 1% for 11 and 12.

Progress in passenger bus sector wage negotiations

The SA Transport and Allied Workers’ Union (Satawu) and four other unions in the SA Road Passenger Bargaining Council (Sarpbac) on Monday said they would take employers’ wage offers to their members for approval.  Last week, the unions met with the two employers’ associations at the bargaining council for the first phase of wage negotiations in the sector.  The minimum basic wage in the sector is currently R6,076.  After little movement initially, the unions made concessions, including reducing the demand for an across the board (ATB) increase from 20% to 16% and cutting the demand for a minimum basic wage from R10,000 to R8,000.  They also undertook to consider payment of yearly bonuses in an employee’s birth month rather than December.  In response, employers proposed that the parties sign a three-year wage agreement from 1 April 2018 to 31 March 2021, with employees initially receiving a 4.7% increase, followed by a 5.2% increase in 2020 and a 5.7% increase in 2021.  Employers also proposed the same ATB increases for the minimum basic wage for the three-year agreement.  They furthermore offered four months maternity at 35% pay for the 2018/19 year, 37% for the 2019/20 year and 40% for the 2020/21 year.  The bargaining council’s second phase of negotiations will be held from 12 to 16 February.


Black empowerment boost in vehicle manufacturing

South Africa’s seven light vehicle manufacturers plan to launch a R3.5-billion venture fund this year, aimed at boosting black economic empowerment in the domestic automotive manufacturing industry.

The seven manufacturers are BMW, FordToyota, Mercedes-Benz, IsuzuNissan and Volkswagen. They are all 100% owned by their parent companies abroad and are not in a position to surrender any percentage of ownership to South African investors, black or white. The venture fund was an attempt to address government’s push for increased empowerment in the local automotive industry, especially as the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) was expected to announce a new government support programme for the automotive industry later this year. Current planning is for the venture fund to have a black fund manager, with the vehicle manufacturers and government working alongside this manager to select projects to benefit from the fund.

Benefits could include funding and/or mentoring. Potential sectors that could benefit from the fund included securitylogistics, dealerships and component manufacturing. As such the fund could potentially further increase the number of locally made components on vehicles produced in South Africa. The fund still required a number of approvals, such as legal buy-in from all the manufacturers’ parent companies.

BMW opens a new R73-million training academy

Last Friday BMW Group South Africa (BMW SA) opened a new, R73-million training academy at its Rosslyn plant, in Pretoria. The 6 000 m2 facility can host 300 apprentices a year. BMW SA opened its first training centre at Rosslyn in 1978. Since then, close to 2 000 training academy graduates have secured employment at the plant.

“Global automotive production stands on the brink of momentous change with an increased focus on digitalisation and electrification,” commented BMW SA and Sub-Saharan Africa CEO Tim Abbott at the opening ceremony. Modern manufacturing skills such as robot programming, advanced computer numerical control simulation and training on electric vehicles have all been included at the new academy. An accredited trade test centre has been incorporated into the building, allowing learners to achieve their trade qualification in-house. This functionality will also be extended to the public in the course of 2018. Learnerships on offer to external candidates are mechatronics and autotronics. Trades to study include millwright, electrician, fitter, fitter and turner, motor mechanic, spray painter and panel beater.

ANN7 staff fear job cuts

Fears of job losses exist amongst ANN7 employees after pay-tv company MultiChoice announced its decision to cut ties with the Gupta-linked 24-hour news channel.  MultiChoice CEO Calvo Mawela advised that the platform broadcaster would not be renewing its contract with the channel in August when the current one lapses.  The decision seemingly did not come as a surprise to some staff members, who had been reassured of the future by new owner Mzwanele Manyi about two weeks ago.


Trapped miners freed – Amcu and DA’s understanding of mining questioned

All the miners that were trapped at Sibanye-Stillwater’s Beatrix mine were brought safely to surface on Friday. This followed them not being able to come to surface following an electric cable outage after a storm on Wednesday night.  The incident also highlighted in the media the ignorance of both Amcu leadership and DA leadership on mining matters. The Amcu questioned why generators were not readily available (they were) and the DA enquired about why alternative escape routes were not available (these are, but they are onerous to use if you are 2,000m underground – it is better to wait for electricity to be restored to drive the lift system).

Department of Labour concedes blunder with definition of ‘worker’ in minimum wage bill

The Department of Labour has conceded that it erred when it changed the wording of the definition of “worker” in the National Minimum Wage Bill.  This followed a Business Day report detailing how the bill, which was gazetted in November 2017, went against recommendations of experts and a National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) agreement.  In the bill, “workers” are defined as employees as per the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA), which would result in the exclusion of millions of independent contractors, subcontractors and task-based workers and limit the reach of the minimum wage coverage.  The department said on Wednesday that it was never its intention to deviate from the Nedlac agreement made between the government, business and labour and that it would correct the error.

Download PDF