Strike at Optimum Mine ended

Newly-appointed Minister of Mineral Resources Gwede Mantashe met on Thursday with workers and management at Optimum coal mine in Mpumalanga in a bid to resolve the impasse that arose after about 2,000 workers went on strike demanding salaries and answers about the future of the mine.  The Gupta-owned businesses, including Optimum coal mine, Koornfontein mines and Optimum Coal Terminal, have been placed under business rescue.  Optimum workers say the mine is in a state of disarray and that suppliers have not been paid.  Workers have also demanded answers from management about the future of the mine and the security of their jobs.  Optimum has also been taken to court by Derko Mining and Exploration in an effort to have the mine liquidated.  The company owes service providers over R60 million.  The mine could also be shut down over its failure to operate a community water desalination plant.

In the meantime Standard Bank has instituted disciplinary proceedings against an employee who had offered to reopen bank accounts for Gupta companies (Optimum) currently under business rescue.  On Monday, the business rescue practitioners Louis Klopper and Kurt Knoop told creditors of smaller Gupta companies at a series of meetings that Standard Bank had agreed to open transactional accounts for all the companies.  However, on Tuesday, at far larger meetings for creditors of the Optimum Coal mine, the two had to backtrack.  “Standard Bank asked for more information,” said Knoop, who added that they were in negotiations with the bank. Standard Bank said in a message that its decision to cut ties with the Gupta family in April 2016 “still stands and has not been reviewed”.

Nehawu strike at water and sanitation indefinite

The National Education Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) said its strike since last Thursday at 53 workplaces across the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) would remain indefinite until all demands had been met.  The union indicated that they were striking for better working conditions, cleaner offices, safe accommodation and also wanted to register their unhappiness about the department’s decision to outsource services such as the building of dams.

DUT wage strike may resume

The resumed wage negotiations between the Durban University of Technology (DUT) and unions are still on knife-edge and the strike may resume if union membership do not rejects the feedback from union leaders which commenced on Thursday.  Three unions led by the National Education Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) were locked in a briefing with the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) and then with other union leaders on Wednesday.  Union leaders indicated that little progress have been made and that there are still many outstanding matters.

Fawu and Saftu march to Sars  against illicit trading

Members of the Food and Allied Workers Union (Fawu) and the SA Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) marched to the offices of the SA Revenue Service (Sars) in Tshwane on Tuesday to demand that government take decisive action against illicit trade.  They said illicit trading cost the country billions of rands and resulted in job losses.  Union members from the liquor, beverages, textile and tobacco industries participated in the protest action.  Fawu general secretary Katishi Masemola said the impact illicit trading had on these industries was not only job losses and the loss of revenue to the fiscus, but also “the risk health exposure to illicitly traded goods”.  He went on to say:  “We are targeting sectors such as tobacco and cigarette manufacturing, alcohol beverages, the soft drinks, as well as the fishing and the sugar.”  The unions decided to march to Sars because they wanted illicit traders to pay taxes and be brought to book.  Masemola added that the unions did not think the sugar tax and liquor bill should be signed into law.


Eskom pays back controversial R5bn GEPF/PIC loan

Eskom has repaid the R5bn loan facility advanced to it in February by the Government Employees Pension Fund (GEPF) via the Public Investment Corporation (PIC), apparently with R30m interest.  The funds reflected in their bank accounts on 1 March, the two organisations said on Monday.  The PIC, which manages assets on behalf of the GEPF, agreed in February to advance the bridging facility to Eskom for one month and the loan was used to fund February operations.  The Public Service Association (PSA) was angered by the PIC’s decision to loan money to the power utility, saying Eskom was in the red as a result of corrupt activities.  The PIC’s CEO, Dan Matjila, was later forced to apologise for entering into the loan agreement with Eskom without having consulted unions that represent workers whose pensions are invested by the asset manager.  The PSA has welcomed the repayment.  Last week, Eskom announced it had signed a R20bn short-term credit facility with a consortium of local and international banks.

Samwu to consult members on municipal wage offer

The SA Municipal Workers’ Union (Samwu) indicated on Wednesday that it would be consulting union members on a revised wage offer.  General secretary Simon Mathe said the union was disappointed by the wage offer presented by the South African Local Government Association (Salga) at the third round of salary and wage negotiations in the Local Government Bargaining Council held in Durban.   According to Samwu, Salga offered a multi-year agreement with an across-the-board salary increase of 5.9%, all allied demands to also increase by 5.9% and a housing allowance for individuals who owned homes.  The union is demanding a single year agreement inclusive of an across-the-board 15% salary increase (or R3,155), a minimum wage of R10,000 and a R2,000 housing allowance for all employees.  The last round of negotiations is scheduled to be held from 16 April 2018.

Uasa assured of stability at Denel

Newly appointed Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan has promised the United Association of SA (Uasa) that he will attend to the crisis at state-owned arms manufacturer Denel.  During a meeting with the union on Tuesday, the minister also said he was concerned that a number of state-owned enterprises, including Denel, could soon run out of cash.  Denel confirmed in December 2017 that it was experiencing a severe liquidity crunch, which had resulted in the delayed payment of workers’ salaries.  The government had to issue the company with an emergency loan guarantee of R580m to ensure that it paid suppliers and its 4,000 staff.  Uasa and Solidarity, which also has members at Denel, have blamed management and the Denel board for the financial crisis, saying they had been complicit in corrupt dealings that enriched the Gupta family.


Possible 3,000 job cuts at Nedbank because of robotics

Nedbank last week said that it could possibly do away with 3,000 employees as a result of software robots, but that the job losses would be offset through the bank’s expected growth.  Nedbank has installed 59 software robots and plans to have 200 in place by the end of the year.  With about 32,000 staff, the bank said its natural attrition rate was about 3,000 per year. Financial sector union Sasbo on Wednesday condemned Nedbank for announcing plans to cut 3,000 jobs as a result of robotics.

Eskom to scrutinise staff numbers and assets in cost-structure revamp

Eskom intends to reduce its employee headcount by 4.2% to 31,675 for 2018/19, but on Monday said that retrenchments were not on the table.  The cash-strapped state-owned power utility is under pressure to reduce its costs amid falling electricity demand and claims that it is overstaffed.  Eskom’s handling of employee costs often comes up when the utility applies for tariff increases.  Eskom spokesperson Khulu Phasiwe confirmed on Monday that the utility wanted to reduce costs, but ruled out retrenchments.  He was responding to an earlier report that Eskom chairperson Jabu Mabuza had said Eskom would appoint a permanent chief executive by the end of next month to begin the process of reforming the ailing utility, which might include reducing job numbers.  National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) Energy Sector Co-ordinator, Paris Mashego, said on Monday that the union, which has 17,000 members at Eskom, expected to be fully consulted before any decisions were taken about cutting employee numbers.  Mashego indicated that in the Num’s view Eskom’s problem is poor leadership and financial mismanagement which must first be fixed before job cuts are contemplated.

Google’s jobs aggregation platform

According to Google’s director for SA, Luke McKend, the technology giant’s new jobs aggregation platform, which launched in SA last week, will not compete directly with local employment websites.  Google launched a jobs search tool in SA, Kenya and Nigeria last week aimed at making job hunting faster and easier.  The platform is shown to users when they search for jobs on Google’s search engine.  The tool, which aggregates job posts from sites such as Job Mail and Careers24, as well as directly from companies and recruiters, lets users search by job location, among other filters.  Google does not collect job seekers’ applications, but rather links the prospective employees with companies.  McKend said job seekers were increasingly using the internet to find work.  Digital head-hunting platform, which vets job seekers to make the process more “efficient”, said last week that “traditional recruiting is dead” in SA.

Pikitup to investigate feasibility of employing former Jozi@Work contract workers

City of Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba has instructed Pikitup to investigate the feasibility of providing full-time employment to former Jozi@Work employees.  Mashaba met with representatives of contract workers of Pikitup to discuss alleged issues of non-payment following the termination of their contracts.  The contract workers claimed that third-party service providers did not pay what was owed to them at the end of their contracts in December.

South Africans more worried about having their smartphones stolen than being fired

Online payment platform PayPal released a report showing that more than half of all South Africans with smartphones were using their devices as their preferred method of transacting.  According to the report, the majority of South Africans would rather leave their home without their wallet than leave their home without their mobile device, and three of the top seven most used mobile apps were related to eCommerce.  The survey quizzed participants on a number of stressful scenarios and found that 60% of South Africans ranked losing their phone or having it stolen as a scenario that would cause them the most anxiety and worry.  It tied with a home invasion for the highest response, and more South Africans are worried about having their phone stolen than getting fired from their job.  PayPal said they were expecting online sales in SA to reach R53-billion in 2018, up from R37-billion just two years ago.


Informal gold miner shot dead at Benoni mine

An informal gold miner was shot dead and eight others were arrested by security guards at a mine in Benoni.  The arrested, who are between the ages of 19 and 36, appeared in the Benoni Magistrate Court on Monday and Tuesday charged with illegal possession of gold.  One of the accused was released on bail and the other seven were remanded in custody until 27 March.  The group of informal gold miners (known as gwejas) had been operating near Modderbee prison in Benoni for two months, but last Saturday they were confronted by armed mine security guards.  One of the miners who escaped alleged that mine security had given them access to the mine in exchange for R500 from each of the group as well as some cellphones.  “We always pay some of the security guards to go in, but other thick headed ones tend to backstab us.  Because of greed, they tend to want the gold particles as well [as the bribe],” he claimed.

Tight security at Brits court ahead of appearance of ex-Amcu members

Security was tight at the Brits Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday ahead of the appearance of former members of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu).  Six jailed former members of Amcu accused of conspiracy to murder and attempted murder of union leaders were expected to apply for bail.  Lungisa Madiba, Juke Mjakane, Sthembe Jakane, Xolile Madikane, Mthethelethu Mtshukuka and Zamelekhaya Mboxela were arrested on 10 February in Marikana, Mooinooi and Idutywa in the Eastern Cape and have been jointly charged with taxi driver Simphiwe Silwane.  Several Amcu members were murdered in September last year.  Nine people, most of them union members, were killed and two had near death experiences.  In addition, in Mooinooi, a case of attempted murder was reported, and three men, two of whom have been released on bail, have been charged.  The three allegedly shot Malibongwe Mdazo, the Amcu branch chairperson in Mooinooi, on 22 July in an attempt to kill him.

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