Strike regarding uncertainty at Optimum Coal Mine

Optimum Coal Mine has assured its striking workers that it will deal with their concerns regarding possible change of ownership and payment of salaries speedily.  Employees commenced strike action on Thursday over concerns that they would not be paid on Friday.  There were also concerns that the mine would shut down following the Bank of Baroda’s exit from South Africa.  It has also emerged that workers at the Koornfontein mine, also owned by the Gupta-linked Tegeta firm, have not yet been paid.  NUM confirmed that the matter was now before the CCMA.

In the meantime the Optimum Coal Mine mining right will be suspended if managers fail to comply with the site’s social and labour plan.  The Department of Mineral Resources conducted an inspection on 8 February and Optimum Coal must take measures to reach compliance within 60 days of a pending order, the ministry indicated.

Employees at the mine is also uncertain regarding the future after Oakbay said in August that it agreed to sell Tegeta (owners of Optimum) to Swiss company Charles King.

DUT strike continues and workers find pay packets slashed

The strike by staff, including academics, over salary increases at the Durban University of Technology (DUT) has entered its sixth week.  Last week, the lectures were suspended indefinitely, while spokesperson for the DUT Crisis Committee, Milton Estrice, was adamant the strike would continue until strikers’ demands were met.  There was anger on Tuesday when protesting staff members found their pay packets heavily reduced due to the “no work, no pay principle”. DUT staff are currently demanding an increase of 8% in salary and R350 in the housing allowance, as well as a once-off bonus of R9,000.  DUT is offering 6.5% increases in salaries and the housing allowance, with no bonus.

NSFAS members on strike for higher wages

About 200 employees of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) are demanding higher salaries and other improvements.  The workers, who claim management failed to meet demands submitted by their union, the National Education Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) in September 2017, protested outside NSFAS’s offices in Wynberg, Cape Town, on Tuesday.  Among their demands were higher minimum salaries, promotions for cleaners, medical aid for parents of employees, permanent employment for contract workers and an end to “abuse of power and prostitution for jobs”.

Liviero mining received a strike notice from Numsa

Liviero mining, a mining contractor mainly active in Mpumalanga has received a strike notice from Numsa at one of the operations where it is contracted. The strike notice relates to Numsa demanding recognition. Amcu is the other union recognised at Liviero. The Company is confident that strike action will be averted by negotiating and concluding a recognition agreement with Numsa at the specific site. A meeting has been scheduled for Monday 26 February 2018.


Medical scheme contribution tax credits capped

Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba has revised the tax credits taxpayers receive for their medical scheme contributions to raise an extra R4.2bn for the National Health Insurance (NHI).  The development is said to highlight once again how much more cautious a line Treasury is taking than the Department of Health on the implementation of NHI.  Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi has consistently said scrapping the tax credits altogether could provide billions of rands for NHI, while Treasury has warned that they play a vital role in ensuring medical scheme cover is affordable to low-and middle-income wage earners.  The cap will rise by a nominal 2%, significantly below Treasury’s forecasts for consumer price inflation, which are 5.3% for this year, 5.4% for 2019 and 5.5% for 2020.  The medical tax credit will increase from R303 to R310 per month for the first two beneficiaries and from R204 to R209 for the remaining dependents.  This adjustment is so modest it is said to be unlikely to force anyone to drop their medical scheme cover.

Pressure is on to tie public sector pay rise to inflation

Treasury is hoping to hold public sector trade unions to a consumer-inflation-linked pay increase as part of an effort to rebalance public spending.  Wages and salaries of public servants having been growing at rates higher than inflation and consumed 35% of expenditure in 2017, up from 32.9% 10 years earlier.  Treasury officials say that a strong case was made to officials who sit on the government’s mandate committee and who negotiate the wage agreement that “CPI it must be”.  President Cyril Ramaphosa has also been active in meeting the Department of Public Service and Administration and unions to make the case for a CPI-linked increase.  A study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development in 2017 found that SA had one of the highest wage bills among developing country peers.  The burgeoning public service wage bill has been partly due to higher-than-inflation settlements and partly due to growing numbers of public servants.   In 2016, in an attempt to push down personnel numbers, the government reduced the personnel budgets of national and provincial departments by R10bn in 2017-18 and R15bn in 2018-19.  Employee numbers fell for the first time in 2017.  Wednesday’s Budget Review also raised concern over municipal salaries.

Activists join resistance to Coronation’s executive pay policies

Active Shareholder is the latest activist investor to express concern about the controversial remuneration policy of Coronation Fund Managers and said it would vote against it at Tuesday’s annual general meeting.  “The incentive is clearly linked to company performance but details of the deferred portion are sketchy and we do not favour the level of discretion implied in the split of the 30% of profit,” said Active in its voting statement, referring to the policy of allocating 30% of pretax profits to employees.  In addition, Active will vote against the re-election of chairman Shams Pather to the board and the reappointment of Alexandra Watson to the audit and risk committee.  Active was established in 2017 by a group of nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) to focus on social and governance policies at JSE-listed companies.  Shareholder activist Theo Botha has also given notice of his intention to vote against many of the same resolutions.  On the remuneration resolution, he said the key performance indicators for short-term incentives “are vague and generalised and no details are provided of how the executives’ incentives are arrived at”.

Major windfall for Clicks employees

Employees at JSE-listed retail healthcare group Clicks are set to receive a major windfall of R1.27bn after selling up to 7,642,904 Clicks Group ordinary shares at R166 a share.  The Clicks Group Employee Share Ownership Trust (Esop Trust) disposed of the shares to unwind 50% of the scheme.  Only full-time Clicks employees were permitted to participate in the scheme, and entry into the scheme closed in 2015.  Shares are held by 6,814 employees, with black employees holding 87% of the shares and women 64%.  Pharmacists comprise 5% of the Esop beneficiaries.  Participating employees receive a cash dividend annually, equal to 10% of the total dividend paid to ordinary shareholders each year.  The group said the purpose of launching the scheme had been to attract and retain scarce and critical skills, accelerate transformation, build employee commitment and enable employees to share in the growth and success of the business.


Northam may be adding jobs

Platinum group metals miner, Northam, which is in a strong organic and acquisitive growth phase, will be generating 6 500 new mining jobs in the next four to five years. A current employer of 12 000 people, including contractors, Northam is in the midst of spending R5.5-billion capital on strategically timed, on-track growth projects, which are combining with acquisitive growth to reposition the company as a million-ounce supplier of PGMs. Speaking to journalists at a media roundtable NorthamCEO Paul Dunne said the company would definitely be employing more people at all of the operations, with the possible exception of Booysendal North, which is already at full nameplate capacity. Preparation to access the newly acquired Tumela Block has already created an additional 357 jobs and more job creation is on the way as the Zondereinde mine ramps up to 350 000 oz a year. A combination of 3 000 new permanent and project jobs are also on the way at the Booysendal South mine. If the company does choose to restart the recently acquired rhodium-dominant Eland mine in the Brits area, another 3 000 people stand to be employed.

Naval project will create 5‚000 jobs over five years

President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Wednesday that a naval project for building ships will create about 5‚000 jobs in the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) over the next five years.  The project was part of Operation Phakisa‚ Ramaphosa said during a speech on Armed Forces Day in Kimberley.  He indicated that the project would create 570 “high-end technical jobs” and 4‚500 indirect jobs over the next five years.

Western Cape aims to help 11,000 apprentices get into labour market by 2019

The Western Cape Government has activated its Red Tape Reduction Unit and hopes to assist more than 11,000 qualified apprentices to get into the labour market by 2019.  MEC for Economic Opportunities Alan Winde said this would be in partnership with schools, colleges and employers.  He commented that apprenticeships were the first step on the career ladder for many young people.  The unit had been set up to help businesses overcome hurdles which they might face in setting up or running their business.

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