Strike at DUT ended
The strike at the Durban University of Technology (DUT) has been suspended. Vice-chancellor Professor Thandwa Mthembu announced late on Wednesday that the institution would be fully operational from Thursday, with lectures due to resume on Monday. The lock-out imposed on staff who took part in the seven week industrial action was also suspended at 17:00 on Wednesday. This followed a protracted meeting between deputy minister of higher education and training, Buti Manamela, with unions and management on Tuesday. Both parties agreed to return to the negotiating table.
Future of Optimum
Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Mineral Resources heard on Wednesday that there was no reason to place Optimum Coal Mine into business rescue other than the financing woes of Tegeta Exploration and the now fugitive Gupta family. Goodwill Mthombeni, chairperson of the Optimum branch of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), told the committee that the union believed the reported sale of Optimum to a Swiss clothing company was not above board and that according to company statements Tegeta had made R2.2bn since it acquired the mine in 2016. Mthombeni also reported that after a standoff with management, permanent workers at the coal mine began receiving their salaries on Tuesday. NUM called a strike at Optimum last week in protest at workers not receiving their wages. Mthombeni said similar problems had been reported at other mines belonging to Tegeta, including Koornfontein and Evander. The management of Optimum on Wednesday failed to show up for the briefing to the committee. The committee heard however from the Department of Mineral Resources that Optimum had flouted its social obligations, which it was stressed had been respected by the previous owners Glencore.
Cosatu warns of nationwide strike about VAT increase
The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) has threatened a nationwide strike if Parliament fails to reject the proposed increase in the value-added tax (VAT). Former Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba announced the first VAT hike since 1993 during his Budget speech in February, a move which has been widely slammed by opposition parties and labour organisations. Meantime, Democratic Alliance (DA) leader Mmusi Maimane said the party would soon march to the National Treasury against the increase in VAT and transport levies because they were regressive and anti-poor policies. The SA Communist Party (SACP) has also rejected government’s announcement of an increase in VAT, warning it marked the possible beginnings of a regressive creep.
REMUNERATION AND EMPLOYEE BENEFITS (INCL WAGE NEGOTIATIONS)
Mobile clinic company fails to pay staff
140 employees who work for Gupta-linked mobile clinic company Mediosa have not been paid their February salaries. Medicosa is contracted to the North West and Free State Health Departments. This is seemingly linked to other companies in the Gupta-fold not paying salaries.
Nehawu accuses NYDA board members of corruption
The National Education Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) on Thursday accused top executives of the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) of corruption. It said that newly-elected board members had unilaterally increased their salaries without following due process. According to the union, NYDA chairperson Sfiso Mtsweni and deputy chairperson Bavelile Hlongwa increased the salaries for their offices with effect from 1 January 2018 without consulting the union members for a clear mandate and way forward. The union’s branch executive committee said it viewed the actions by the employer as illegal and discriminatory since a number of employees had been denied bursaries for this academic year due to lack of funds. Nehawu has demanded to be allowed to make a presentation at the human resources and remuneration committee meeting scheduled and has also called for an urgent bargaining forum to convene to resolve the matter. Failing that, the union would roll out mass action beginning with a picket on Wednesday and a strike action.
Unpaid workers at ANN7 and The New Age
Some employees at ANN7 TV and The New Age newspaper staged a stayaway on Tuesday after they were not paid their salaries. The new owner, Mzwanele Manyi, was adamant his company was not facing a financial crisis despite the delay in salary payments. He insisted that there was a “small technical glitch” last weekend which delayed payments of salaries at his new media houses, which were previously owned by the controversial Gupta family. It was reported last month that the two establishments were going through turmoil following the Gupta exit and that employees were without basic office necessities such as tea, toilet paper and petrol for fleet cars.
EMPLOYMENT AND LABOUR ECONOMIC MATTERS
Seriti took over Anglo assets
Seriti officially took control of the Anglo Eskom-tied collieries business on 1 March 2018. This event, which was preceded by months of project management and planning to ensure a smooth transition as a going concern, will result in Seriti being the largest black owned coal supplier to Eskom, supplying about 24% of Eskom’s coal. Much of the planning centred on ensuring continued sustainable coal supply to Eskom.
Implats results and job losses
Impala Platinum cut 1,400 jobs at its Rustenburg operations, narrowed its loss and closed shafts even as the producer of platinum-group metals (PGM) seeks further cost reductions to boost cash flow by as much as R1bn in the next two years. Implats is looking to “refocus or close unprofitable areas” and revise costs structures to return to profit in an environment of low prices for platinum-group metals, the producer said in a statement on Thursday. Its headline loss, which excludes one-time items, narrowed to R150m in the six months ended 31 December from R508m a year earlier. Impala halted operations at four shafts at its Rustenburg mine in January and is optimising operations at three others. It wants to operate lower-cost, shallower and mechanised assets and the Rustenburg operation may be profitable in a low-price environment, it said. “The challenges and uncertainties confronting the South African PGM industry remain significant,” Impala said.
More people now receive social grants than have jobs in SA
The national budget ten days ago highlighted that there are 17.6m people receiving grants, against the 16.2m people with jobs. The former have exploded more than four-fold in 17 years, while the number of official jobs has gone up just 30% over the same period. Aggravating the situation was the growth in public sector jobs from 2.1m to 2.7m since 2008. Public servants’ salaries – which are more than a third higher than the private sector average – now account for nearly half the annual budget. An economist, Mike Schüssler pointed out that a worrying aspect of the structural dependence being created in the country was that of the roughly 16 million people with jobs, 10 million were in the formal sector and only 7.5 million of those paid tax.
LEGAL, COMPLIANCE AND SAFETY
Alarm at resurgence in mine deaths
It is estimated that 88 miners died in accidents on SA’s mines last year, which was an unhappy regression for the industry because fatalities had fallen from 615 in 1993, to 200 in 2007, to 73 in 2016. This year hasn’t started well either as the Chamber of Mines (COM) has confirmed that 14 mineworkers have died since the beginning of 2018. While the COM cannot pinpoint the exact reasons behind the spike in fatalities, trade unions have blamed increased pressure on workers as one of the causes. The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and the Association of Mineworkers & Construction Union (Amcu) say workers have been forced to compromise on safety as they perform functions that would ordinarily require more manpower than is currently available. NUM’s health and safety chairman Peter Bailey says that since mass retrenchments hit the industry in 2014, mineworkers claim they have had to work long hours without rest, while the violation of safety standards has become the norm. Workers are facing a double-edged sword, say Bailey and Amcu president Joseph Mathunjwa, namely a dysfunctional department of mineral resources has led to a mass exodus of skilled inspectors, leaving mining houses to their own devices. Lerato Tsele, acting head of safety at the COM, says her institution supports a call for a new inquiry into safety. In the past, similar inquiries made a big difference.
ConCourt rules in favour of coloured workers in racial discrimination case
The Constitutional Court (ConCourt) on Tuesday ruled in favour of three coloured employees who left their jobs as a result of alleged racial discrimination that manifested itself in physical‚ verbal and mental abuse. They approached the ConCourt last year after the Labour Appeal Court (LAC) held that the Labour Court (LC) would not have jurisdiction if a dismissal dispute by the employees had not been referred to a conciliation process. The case goes back to September 2011 when Theo September‚ Dean September and Ronald Paulsen left their employ with CMI Business Enterprise CC. The three‚ who were the only black employees at the company‚ performed technical and mechanical duties on mining-related projects. Following unsuccessful conciliation, the men instituted proceedings in the LC in 2012, seeking an order that their resignations amounted to “automatically unfair dismissals” based on racial discrimination. The LC found in their favour. But, the LAC then held that the LC did not have jurisdiction to adjudicate a dismissal dispute if that dispute had not been referred to conciliation. In a majority judgment by Justice Leona Theron‚ the ConCourt said the LAC Court was incorrect.
Prasa to reinstates 700 dismissed workers
The cost to reinstate the 700 workers who were fired by the Passenger Rail of SA (Prasa) after a protected strike five years ago will amount to over R1-billion. Three weeks ago‚ the Constitutional Court dismissed an appeal by Prasa which had sought to reverse a Labour Appeal Court (LAC) judgment last year ordering the reinstatement of the workers. The workers‚ belonging to the National Transport Movement (NTM)‚ were dismissed after Prasa accused them of burning trains worth about R42m during the strike. Prasa had sent workers notices asking them to make representations as to why they should not be fired for a number of incidents at stations and depots during January 2013, but was not satisfied with the explanations provided by the NTM and so dismissed the employees. The LAC found the dismissal to have been procedurally and substantively unfair and the ConCourt concurred. Prasa said it would fully comply with the judgment to reinstate all the workers and that it was in dialogue with both the union and the affected employees on the details of the reinstatements.