INDUSTRIAL ACTION

Amcu to march to Union Buildings on 20 March

The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) is arranging a march to the Union Buildings in Pretoria on Tuesday, 20 March to protest the mass job losses in the mining industry and other socio-economic issues.  The protest will affect staff attendance at various mines across the country‚ with marches also planned in Polokwane‚ Durban‚ and Welkom.  The only area seemingly unaffected is the Northern Cape. The strike will be protected as Amcu applied for permission from the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) in 2017 to undertake the protest action.  The union will also be demanding that the Department of Mineral Resources should enforce stricter measures to ensure the implementation of social and labour plans by mines.

Mortuary strike

The Gauteng department of health successfully interdicted the industrial action by forensic officers at 11 mortuaries in Gauteng.  Since 7 March, workers have been refusing to dissect bodies, their complaint being that the work was not in their job descriptions and they did not have the necessary training.  The SA Liberated Public Sector Workers Union (Salipswu) accused the department of reneging on a June 2017 agreement to train the workers.

End of water and sanitation strike

The Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) will be subject to a commission of inquiry‚ with officials to face consequences for any negative findings‚ it was announced in Parliament on Wednesday.  This came as the department announced that a deal had been struck to end a workers’ strike.  The National Education Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) last week announced an indefinite strike at the DWS offices and facilities nationwide over corruption‚ maladministration and unfavourable working conditions.  Demands included that the DWS should cease using contractors in its projects since they were allegedly the gateway to “corruption and looting” in the department.  On Wednesday, the DWS said it had reached an agreement with Nehawu to end the three-day strike.  The deal apparently included agreement to pay outstanding bonuses‚ implementation of new conditions of employment for construction employees‚ a move towards insourcing and setting of deadlines for improved working conditions.  Nehawu confirmed that its members would return to work and indicated that the department had agreed that members would not be docked any pay for the days they were on strike.

Health unions to stage protest in Johannesburg

Health trade unions in Gauteng participated in a march last Friday after the provincial department failed to pay performance bonuses to the workers in the province.   The unions‚ which include the Democratic Nursing Organisation of SA (Denosa)‚ the National Education Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu)‚ the Public Servants Association (PSA) and the National Union of Public Service and Allied Workers (Nupsaw)‚ last week staged a sit-in at the office of health MEC Gwen Ramokgopa‚ demanding payment for their members.  The Health & Other Services Personnel Trade Union of SA (Hospersa) issued a statement on Thursday urging its members “not to participate in the illegal strike” and called for further engagement with the employer regarding the dispute.  Following long discussions with Ramokgopa on Wednesday around the outstanding performance bonuses for the 2016/17 and 2017/18 financial years, the unions said in a statement “it became clear that we can’t find each other on both items…  Put simply‚ the employer is adamant that they are not going to pay PMDS for last year and this year.”  The unions have threatened that if their demands are not met‚ they will ultimately go on a strike.

DUT says no-show by unions to sign agreement thwarting end of strike

According to the Durban University of Technology (DUT), they have been stood up twice by unions representing staff to end the strike that has thrown the institute into chaos over the past eight weeks.  In a statement on Tuesday‚ DUT deputy vice-chancellor Dr Isaac Machi said despite an in-principle agreement facilitated by the CCMA, the three unions were a no-show at meetings schedule for Monday and then for Tuesday to sign the offer.  The parties agreed on a salary increase of 7% across-the-board‚ including a R200 housing allowance.  In addition‚ once the agreement was signed‚ staff would be able to take advantage of a salary advance – up to a maximum of R12,000 – with repayment options.  Back payments relating to the salary increase and housing allowance from January to March would only be implemented in April.  However‚ DUT said as the agreement had not been signed‚ this could “derail the process of implementing its various elements”.

Strike at state pension administrators postponed

Employees at the Government Pensions Administration Agency (GPAA) have postponed their strike by a week to allow enough days for a notice to be served on the employer.  The workers, who administer the payment of government pensions, had planned to commence strike action last Tuesday.  The National Education Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) said the strike related to the GPAA’s failure to implement a settlement agreement entered into in 2017.  In terms of the agreement, the agency had committed to absorbing contract workers into the GPAA’s permanent workforce.  Other unmet demands include the correction of irregular appointments, the payment of bonuses and equal implementation of disciplinary measures irrespective of positions.  The proposed strike will disrupt pension payments and could affect 400,000 pensioners and beneficiaries relying on monthly pensions for income.

Grasmere Toll Plaza operational after strike

The boom gate system at the Grasmere Toll Plaza in Johannesburg has been opened after disruptions caused by a strike on Tuesday morning.  The reasons for the strike, which only lasted for the morning, could not be determined.

Fawu opposition to sugar tax

On Monday Fawu handed a memorandum to a representative of Parliament with grievances about the dumping of chicken products, the sugar tax, proposed liquor laws, labour law amendments, the minimum wage, and illicit trading.  Masemola said that according to National Treasury’s own study, 5,000 to 8,000 jobs would be lost if the sugar tax was implemented, which would exacerbate the current figure of 40% unemployment.  Fawu president Atwell Nazo claimed that illicit trading was costing the country 10% of its GDP and was robbing workers and the country of taxes.  He said jobs were shed and warehouses were mushrooming in the country, storing the goods imported, rather than factories being built that manufactured goods.

REMUNERATION AND EMPLOYEE BENEFITS (INCL WAGE NEGOTIATIONS)

NUM strike at Idwala Carbonates in KZN

The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) in Kwazulu-Natal (KZN) said on Monday that its members have gone on strike at Idwala Carbonates in Port Shepstone following a deadlock in wage negotiations.  The operation mines a deposit of scarce, white calcitic and dolomitic limestone.  The union said the strike started on Wednesday last week when Idwala management refused to improve their offer of a basic salary increase.  Idwala is apparently offering workers a 6.5% salary increase, whereas the union is demanding 8%.  On the housing allowance, the company is offering R140 over and above the current R1,000 entitlement, while the NUM is demanding R1,500 instead.  The NUM is further demanding standardization of shift allowances, while it described the company’s R20,000 loan offer that was dependent on member’s credit records as “useless”.  Muzikayise Zakwe, NUM regional secretary in KZN, said they were talking to their branch at cement manufacturer NPC with a view to lobbying members at NPC to engage in a secondary strike.

FSB appeals to Reserve Bank over R385m for orphans of miners stuck in VBS

Bophelo Beneficiary Fund, which holds money for orphans of Anglo American Platinum mine workers, has about R385m on deposit with VBS Mutual Bank.  The Reserve Bank placed VBS under curatorship on Sunday.  The Financial Services Board (FSB) confirmed that the Bophelo Beneficiary Fund, which with its administrator, Bophelo Benefit Services, was placed under curatorship by the board in June 2017, had R385m deposited with VBS.  The board was in talks with the Bank to recover this money for the orphans’ fund. The latest development concerning its cash will add to Bophelo’s woes.  It was placed under curatorship after it emerged that at least R255m was missing from the fund,  This funds the schooling and living expenses of the orphans, with the balance paid when they reach the age of 18.

EMPLOYMENT AND LABOUR ECONOMIC MATTERS

More unions line up to block Eskom’s deals with IPPs over job concerns

More trade unions are supporting opposing of the agreements set to be entered into between Eskom and 27 Independent Power Producers (IPPs).  On Tuesday, Energy Minister Jeff Radebe postponed the signing of contracts with 27 power producers due to a court action brought by the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) and nongovernmental organisation Transform RSA.  On Wednesday, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) said it would not allow Radebe to go ahead with the plan as it would “perpetuate the stealing of money from SOEs”.  The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) said on Wednesday that its national protest action scheduled for 20 March would also stand against any potential job losses incurred as a result of IPPs.  At the heart of the disagreements over the IPP contracts is the potential loss of up to 30,000 jobs in coal mining, despite government assurances that the agreements would probably create more than 60,000 jobs.  The contracts are set to offer consumers the choice of using clean and renewable energy instead of coal as a power source.

Townships poised to become major job creators

According to Thamsanqa Mazwai, special adviser to the minister of small business, townships have the potential to drive economic growth in SA.  He said at a seminar on the Department of Trade and Industry’s rural and township industrial economic development programme on Wednesday:  “Most people live in townships so the jobs and opportunities must go to where the people are.”  Twenty-two million South Africans live in townships and informal settlements, accounting for 38% of working-age citizens, but these areas also account for 60% of the unemployed.  Unemployment in SA reached historical highs of 27.7% in 2017, although the government is confident that with support, townships and informal settlements are poised to become major job creators.  The biggest challenge for economic development in rural and township economies is said to be transforming them from markets to active economies.

Stadio Holdings aims to train doctors and engineers within next three years

Stadio Holdings, the PSG-aligned private tertiary education specialist that listed in 2017, looks set to establish medical and engineering schools in the next three years.  Stadio will establish its own engineering faculty and is exploring partnerships in the public and private sectors with regard to the education and training of doctors.  Divya Singh, chief academic officer at Stadio, said the company planned to have the medical faculty in place and operational by 2021, with the engineering faculty open by 2020, with 2021 as an “outer limit”.  She cautioned that the setting up of the faculties would require regulatory approvals, including engagements with professional councils.  In line with Stadio’s focus on qualifications that increased the employability of students, Singh said the engineering faculty planned to offer three-year degrees to produce graduates who could be employed as engineering technicians and technologists.  Stadio CEO Chris van der Merwe pointed out that top medical schools in SA were only able to enrol a small percentage of the qualifying applicants.

Salaries of Gupta employees could be in limbo

A high court decision that paves the way for India’s Bank of Baroda to close its operations in SA has left the employees of Gupta-linked companies again in limbo about how they are going to be paid this month.  On Monday, the Pretoria High Court ruled that the bank could not be compelled to continue operating in the country.  The embattled Gupta family had approached the court on an urgent basis in a bid to block the bank from closing shop in the country and formally cutting ties with them, just as SA’s big four banks also did, leaving the family with no banking services for their businesses.  About 20 Gupta-linked companies are serviced by the bank, owned by the Indian government.  They include Infinity Media Networks, which had owned ANN7 and The New Age newspaper, Sahara Computers, Optimum Coal Mine and Tegeta Exploration & Resources, among other companies.  Mzwanele Manyi, owner of ANN7 and The New Age newspaper, said his employees were not affected as the media outlets, which had been founded by the Guptas, have been sold to Lodidox, Manyi’s company.

No bonuses for City Power executives for last financial year

According to the board of directors of City Power, all members of the Johannesburg utility’s executive management committee and general managers would not receive bonuses in respect of the last financial year.  The board indicated that this was because the executive management committee had not achieved its goals and targets for the year.  Johannesburg MMC for Environment and Infrastructure Nico de Jager said:  “We believe that they still have a long way to go in improving service delivery in City Power and, therefore, they will not be taking or paying any bonuses.”  Other employees at the level of manager and below will still be in line for bonuses, but only if they performed well.

LEGAL, COMPLIANCE AND SAFETY

Former Deputy Police Commissioner Mpembe among six men facing Marikana murder charges

Former North West Deputy Police Commissioner William Mpembe is one of six men facing charges of murder in connection with the 2012 Marikana murders.  Mpembe has been charged with the murders of Thembelakhe Mati‚ Semi Jokanisi‚ Hendrick Monene and Sello Lepaaku on 13 August 2012‚ while the other five have been charged with the murder of Phumzile Sokhanyile.  Mpembe‚ along with three others, Gideon van Zyl‚ Dingaan Madoda‚ and Oupa Pule‚ has also been charged with defeating the ends of justice after they failed to report the death in custody of Modisaotsile Sagalala on 16 August 2012.  They allegedly attempted to pass on Sagala’s death as that of Andrew Saffey‚ who died in hospital on 16 August 2012.  Mpembe‚ along with the other five charged with murder, has submitted a formal bail application.  Their matter is in connection with an incident on 13 August 2012‚ in which striking miners were stopped by police while making their way from the Lonmin mine to the Marikana koppie.  The matter against Van Zyl‚ Madoda and Pule has been postponed to 18 June.  Joseph Mathunjwa‚ president of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu)‚ on Wednesday said he was disappointed that only nine officers have been arrested.

Trustees of Optimum and Koornfontein mine rehabilitation funds accused of ‘fraud’ and ‘theft’

The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) has calmed fears in the mining sector of the whereabouts of the nearly R2bn earmarked for rehabilitation of the Optimum and Koornfontein collieries owned and operated by the Gupta family’s Tegeta Resources.  The NPA has secured a transfer of the funds to Nedbank.  In what could be a sign of prosecutions to come, the NPA’s Motlalekhotso Molelle, head of operations in the Asset Forfeiture Unit, accused the trustees of the Optimum Mine Rehabilitation Trust Fund and the Koornfontein Mine Rehabilitation Trust Fund of “theft” and “fraud” and of using the money in a way that violated the Income Tax Act, the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act and the National Environmental Management Act.  The trust funds held R1.46bn and R280m, respectively.  They will be removed from the Bank of Baroda — the only bank that would deal with the Guptas after SA’s major commercial banks declined to do business with them or their companies — to Nedbank, the holder of Baroda accounts, according to a court ruling on 8 March.  Baroda must give a full transactional history of the accounts and must also present all documentation related to instructions around the movement and use of the funds.

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