INDUSTRIAL ACTION

Team of MECs appointed to resolve month-long Nehawu strike

A team of MECs has been appointed by North West Premier Supra Mahumapelo to deal with the issues at the centre of the ongoing strike by members of the National Education Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu).  Nehawu members have been strike for a month at the provincial health department over the awarding of a R180m contract to Gupta-linked company Mediosa.  The premier has instituted forensic investigations into allegations of procurement irregularities in the contract, but investigators have apparently been unable to access documents and information in the premises of the health department.  Mahumapelo’s spokesperson Brian Setswambung on Thursday said the premier had appointed a team of MECs to work with the provincial health and social development departments as part of his intervention.

Two-day strike by Shoprite employees

Shoprite employees nationwide embarked on a two-day protest on Wednesday and Thursday to demand better working hours, permanent jobs and provision of late-night transport.  Small groups of staff protested outside their respective supermarkets to voice their frustrations.  The SA Commercial‚ Catering and Allied Workers’ Union (Saccawu) said workers were demanding a guaranteed 40-hour work week and transport for employees who worked late shifts, also for part-time employees to be employed permanently after at least five years.  In a statement, the union said it had engaged with Shoprite regarding the workers’ needs, but had failed to reach an agreement.

REMUNERATION AND EMPLOYEE BENEFITS (INCL WAGE NEGOTIATIONS)

South Africans’ real take-home pay increased marginally in February

According to BankservAfrica’s latest monthly data, monthly take-home pay reflected a marginal increase for February 2018, while private pensions continued to outperform.  Take-home pay averaged at R14,502 in February and increased marginally by 0.5% in real terms on a year-on-year basis compared to the monthly 1.1% registered for January.  Average private pensions showed greater growth compared to the rate of increase of take-home pay, growing by 11.5% in February 2018 compared to February 2017.  This represented the fastest nominal growth since November 2013, according to BankservAfrica’s Shergeran Naidoo.  In nominal terms, the average private pension was R7,029 in February 2018.  After taking inflation into account, the private pensions increase stood at 6.8%, which was the highest year-on-year increase on record in real terms.  “Growth in pensions has outpaced wages for some time.  This has been a strong trend over the last five years and is in part due to the good pension fund performance and pensioners taking a higher percentage of their retirement income to beat inflation,” said economist Mike Schüssler.  Despite this growth, pensioner incomes are not on par with salaried employees.
Steinhoff scraps AGM vote on extra pay for directors
Steinhoff has scrapped a proposal to vote on once-off payments of between €100,000 (R1.46m) and €200,000 (R2.92m) to three of its senior board members at its upcoming Annual General Meeting (AGM).  In a shareholder announcement on Thursday morning, the global retailer said that the part of the resolution relating to the proposed additional once-off payments for additional work rendered would be deleted.  The payments had been proposed for the “extraordinary time commitments” of the three board members since December 2017, when the group’s former CEO Markus Jooste resigned amid an accounting scandal.

Barclays Africa executives granted another R156m for loyalty during separation from Barclays Plc

Barclays Africa Group executives have been granted restricted share awards (RSAs) to the value of R156m “to retain skills critical during the separation [from Barclays Plc] and beyond”.  This was disclosed in the group’s 2017 integrated report, published on 29 March.  The RSAs were awarded to 53 “key employees… including executive directors and prescribed officers” on 1 October 2017 with a two-year performance period.  This followed the grant of the first tranche of RSAs related to the selldown in 2016.  These, granted to 74 key employees, were worth R191m and will run until 30 September.  Group CE Maria Ramos, deputy CE for SA banking David Hodnett and financial director Jason Quinn received the same award of RSAs under the 2017 plan as in 2016, namely worth R8m, R7m and R3m, respectively.  Prescribed officer Nomkhita Nqweni, CE of wealth, investment management and insurance, received RSAs worth R3m (the same as in 2016).  Excluding the executive directors and the prescribed officer, the mean value of the RSAs granted in 2017 to the other “49 key employees” was R2.755m.  Aside from the RSAs, the executives were also granted long-term incentive plan awards worth more than R90m.

Nedbank’s CEO got paid R38 million for 2017

Nedbank CEO, Mike Brown received a salary of R38 million last year, according to the bank’s integrated financial report for 2017.  In total, the bank spent R173 million for its executive team and board of directors last year.  Brown received a basic salary of R8.1 million, while his bonuses totalled to R13.75 million.  The rest of his salary consisted of vested shares which were part of his long-term (LTI) incentives and dividends.  This came to a total of R38.124 million.  Brown received R14.5 million worth of shares for the year as part of his LTI.  The second highest earner was Managing Executive for Nedbank Corporate and Investment Banking, Brian Kennedy.  He received R36.25 million for the year.  The bank’s group COO, Mfundo Nkhulu followed in line by earning R25.7 million.

Public sector unions apprehensive that wage talks delay will mean lower offer

Public sector unions are bracing themselves for a stand-off with the government because they fear Ayanda Dlodlo, the new minister of public service and administration, will present a lower wage offer than the one put on the table by her predecessor, Faith Muthambi.  Muthambi offered a three-year wage deal, with CPI plus 1.5% in the first year, and CPI plus 1% in both years two and three.  Tempers flared when a meeting meant to finalise the agreement was postponed last week, pending the treasury’s CPI projections for the next two years.  The offer was moreover made before the recent announcement of a 1% increase in value-added tax (VAT).  Union representatives say there are rumours that the offer of the consumer price index (CPI) plus 1.5% will be dropped to CPI plus 1%.  The parties are due to meet again on 4 and 5 April and a new agreement will now have to be backdated to 31 March once it is concluded.  Cosatu’s joint mandating committee chairperson Mike Shingange warned of the potential consequences of a lower offer, saying:  “That will be an indication of negotiation in bad faith and we don’t think they would like to see the reaction of workers.”  Azar Jammine of Econometrix commented that the new Ramaphosa administration would be careful not to upset the workers before an election.  “It’s quite clear from the budget in February that the government is going to award a fairly generous pay offer to public servants, presumably to ward off the possibility of a strike,” Jammine said.

Transport union UNTU declares wage dispute with Prasa

The United National Transport Union (UNTU) declared a dispute with Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa) over a deadlock reached in the 2018 wage negotiations.  In a statement, UNTU said a dispute had been declared with the CCMA after the employer refused to increase its wage offer of 7.3% and refused to include a no retrenchment clause for the next financial year in the wage agreement.  The union is demanding a 13% salary increase.  A date for the CCMA conciliation has not been set.

Strife looms in parliament after managers ‘renege’ on deal to forfeit pay hikes

Parliament’s executive managers have received more than R2m in salary increases backdated to April last year.  This has raised the concern of staff who say their bosses had previously agreed to forfeit such hikes because there was no money.  Last week 18 of parliament’s division managers, who earn between R1.5m and R1.8m a year, each took home at least R100,000 in back pay.  Last year the managers agreed to forego the increases as part of measures to persuade ordinary staff and the National Health Education and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) to accept lower pay hikes.  But the managers pocketed a payout last week after persuading National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete and National Council of Provinces chairwoman Thandi Modise that funds were now available in parliament’s salary budget owing to resignations and vacancies that had not been filled.  They argued that they had not had a salary increase for the past three years.  Parliament’s spokesman, Moloto Mothapo, said the understanding had always been that the increases would kick in as soon as additional money was found in the budget.

EMPLOYMENT AND LABOUR ECONOMIC MATTERS

State’s wage bill to be controlled

According to the Institute of Race Relations (IRR), a crucial test for the administration of President Cyril Ramaphosa will be how it deals with the ballooning public sector wage bill that threatens to eat into the ability of departments to deliver services.  Releasing a report on SA’s bloated and costly public service, the IRR’s Gareth van Onselen said the public sector wage bill needed to be brought under control.  “Unless someone is willing to take a hard line, and soon, it [the wage bill] is set to become the defining obstacle to economic growth,” Van Onselen warned.  Wage negotiations between the government and public sector trade unions are under way in the Public Service Coordinating Bargaining Council.  Their outcome, Van Onselen said, “will go some way towards revealing just how much influence the president wielded”.  But the Public Servants Association’s (PSA’s) Tahir Maepa disagreed that the public service was bloated, pointing out that large numbers of government employees were needed to deliver services.  He also noted that there were more than 160,000 vacant positions in the public service.  Fedusa general secretary Dennis George also highlighted the shortage of employees, but he conceded the public service might be bloated at higher levels of management.

Focus of SA’s renewable-energy sector shifting from costs to jobs and transformation

The themes of employment and transformation in the renewable-energy sector have started to eclipse traditional concerns over cost and reliability as per an article in Engineering News.  This follows government’s highly contested, and much delayed, decision to press ahead with the signing on Wednesday of agreements for another 27 renewable-energy independent power producer (IPP) projects.  The agreements will open the way for investments worth R56bn across mostly rural sites in five provinces.  In the process around 60 000, mostly construction jobs will be created.  Nevertheless, opponents continue to view the projects as a threat to both jobs and government’s commitment to addressing SA’s racially skewed economic and corporate landscape.  Therefore, issues of employment and empowerment are set to become key features of any future producer procurement bid windows.  The National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) – which sought, and failed, to interdict the IPP signing – is engaging with its lawyers to assess what other legal options are available to block the projects.  The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) has expressed anger at the signing of the contracts, which it described as an insult to the working class and the poor.  But energy minister Jeff Radebe insists the renewable-energy projects are not the main threat to coal-sector jobs.  Instead, employment in the sector is threatened in that several mines and power stations are approaching the end of their economic lives.

Eskom is rolling out plan to tackle bloated workforce

After a decade of unprecedented growth in staff numbers, cash-strapped Eskom is finally tackling the controversial issue of its headcount.  The state-owned power utility employed about 47,600 people as of March last year, compared with 32,600 a decade ago – a rise of more than 50%.  A bloated workforce means high costs for a company struggling with cash flow.  But, Eskom is stuck in a three-way tug of war between labour, which rejects job cuts, the ANC, which wants to boost the economy, and funders, who are leery of financing Eskom because of the way it has been managed.  “We are currently rolling out a plan to manage our employee numbers to optimal levels,” Eskom said in an emailed response to questions, without detailing what that level might be.  It added:  “We have implemented numerous levers to manage employee costs ranging from not replacing all attrition, efficiently managing variable employee costs, to re-prioritising training and development.”

Labour Department sticking to phasing out of sectoral wage determinations

The Department of Labour (DOL) is insisting on phasing out sectoral determinations over three years despite strong opposition during public hearings on proposed amendments to the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA).  It will now be up to Parliament’s portfolio committee on labour to decide whether to adopt the proposal.  Opponents of the abolition of sectoral determinations said it would remove a tool to protect workers earning more than the national minimum wage.  The removal of sectoral determinations was introduced into the bill by the DOL and not as a result of negotiations at the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac).  Sectoral determinations are set by the labour minister on the recommendations of the Employment Conditions Commission.  The department’s director-general, Thobile Lamati, motivated the phase-out of sectoral determinations on the grounds that they resulted in considerable complexity.  “Introducing a national minimum wage provides an opportunity to simplify minimum wage regulation and improve compliance,” he said.

IDC loan of R190m will enable Lily and Barbrook mines to be reopened

A local minerals and investments company has signed a R190m loan with the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) to acquire a 74% stake in the cash-strapped Vantage Goldfields SA to reopen two Mpumalanga mines.  Siyakhula Sonke Empowerment Corporation (SSC) Flaming Silver signed the loan deal on Thursday afternoon.  This agreement will enable SSC to reopen the Lily and Barbrook mines in Mpumalanga, which were shut down and later placed under business rescue in 2016.  Vantage Goldfields was forced to close down Lily Mine when the entrance to its shaft collapsed in February 2016.  Three workers – Yvonne Mnisi, Pretty Nkambule and Solomon Nyerende – who were working in a container office, were buried underground.  Lily Mine employed 900 workers and Barbrook employed 100 before operations were mothballed.  According to the business rescue plan, Vantage Goldfields needs R310m to reopen the two mines.  Business rescue practitioner Rob Devereux said SSC would contribute the difference of R120m and get the gold mines back into operation.  The SSC breakthrough comes after two previous deals failed, placing the mines under business rescue.  But the deal has not yet prompted creditors to withdraw their application to liquidate Vantage Goldfields.

Hundreds of permanent employees at Telkom Direct stores outsourced on contract basis

A “unilateral” restructuring process undertaken by Telkom had resulted in hundreds of permanent employees being outsourced on short-term contracts.  Consultants at Telkom Direct stores throughout the country were outsourced from 1 April to two international companies, Perx and Smollan.  Reportedly, some employees were offered one-year contracts and others three-year contracts.  However, some of the employees have raised concerns about the manner in which the move was conducted.  Apparently there was a lack of consultation with the employees during the restructuring process and allegations have been made that only black staff were affected by the outsourcing process.  The employees were also allegedly denied the option of taking severance packages, having been told their skills and expertise were still required.  Telkom confirmed that 220 employees, currently working in the Telkom stores, would be transferred to Smollan and Perx with effect from 1 April.  A spokesperson was adamant that the company conducted the restructuring process in line with the applicable laws and prescripts and that terms and conditions would be no less favourable than previously.  This is the second recent outsourcing project.  Telkom also awarded a R755m security contract to three companies and two of them outsourced Telkom’s investigators.

LEGAL, COMPLIANCE AND SAFETY

Deaths of mineworkers in petrol-bombed bus

Traditional leaders in Burgersfort‚ Limpopo‚ have called on mine owner Patrice Motsepe to provide security for local mineworkers in the wake of Monday’s petrol bomb attack on a bus in the area.  They also pleaded that the mine not be shut-down or closed due to the economic effect it would have on the community. Five suspects have been arrested in connection with the attack‚ which left six mineworkers dead and 28 injured.  The bus transporting the miners was leaving the Modikwa Platinum Mine in Driekop outside Burgersfort on Monday night when the attack occurred.  Motsepe’s African Rainbow Minerals (ARM) and Anglo American Platinum co-own the mine.  Motsepe and Mineral Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe visited the mine on Thursday.

Communities should have to be consulted when SLPs are designed, CALS report finds

For years social and labour plans (SLPs) have not been in line with some of the objectives of the Mineral and Petroleum Resource Development Act (MPRDA), and should be overhauled to include the needs of communities.  These are some of the findings contained a recent Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS) report, which calls for a people-centred system that involves communities at the core of the creation of SLPs and which responds to the needs of communities.  SLPs are plans companies need to submit to the MPRDA on how companies need to share mining benefits with workers and communities.  CALS argues that as communities, along with workers, are the principal intended beneficiaries of SLPs, it follows that they ought to participate meaningfully in the conception and design of SLPs and also their amendment.  The key finding in the report is that there has been inadequate consultation in the drafting of the SLPs.  It also found that few SLPs acknowledge the disproportionate negative impacts of mining on women.  “A possible solution is direct consultation of communities’ and workers’ needs to be mandatory and a clear minimum process”, the report recommends.

SA mine deaths rise to 22 so far this year

The number of people killed in South African mines has reached 22 this year, as mining companies struggle to improve on their safety record in 2017, when deaths increased for the first time in a decade.  Mining deaths increased to 88 last year, compared with 73 in 2016, the Department of Mineral Resources advised.  South Africa operates some of the world’s deepest and most dangerous mines.  The country has been mined commercially for over a century and many operators still rely on older, labour-intensive mining methods such as hand drilling.

UNION POLITICS

Amcu leader Mathunjwa protects corrupt union leaders, Brits court hears

The Brits Magistrate’s Court heard on Thursday that Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) president Joseph Mathunjwa protected members implicated in corruption.  Amcu’s internal conflicts were revealed at the bail hearing of former and current union members accused of plotting to kill union leaders in what appears to be infighting for leadership positions.  Zamelekhaya Mboxela, a former Amcu vice chairperson at Lonmin’s Rowland shaft, told the court he believed Mathunjwa was protecting leaders implicated in corrupt activities, because he never acted on the basis of evidence of corruption presented to him.  “We took evidence of corruption to [the] head office, they promised to investigate and come back to us, instead we were expelled from the union,” Mboxela claimed.  When prosecutor Cassius Mona asked him whether he was aggrieved by his expulsion from Amcu, Mboxela responded by saying:  “The expulsion came from head office, I was scared to challenge it.”  He went on to testify that as a result of non-resolution of workers problems, divisions were created within Amcu.  Mona charged that Mboxela resigned from Lonmin and fled to the Eastern Cape after he realised that the plot to kill Amcu leaders had been discovered.  The case was postponed to 11 April for further hearing on the bail application.

Saftu’s application to join Nedlac likely to be rejected

The SA Federation of Trade Unions’ (Saftu’s) application to be admitted to the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) will likely be rejected by the statutory body’s labour constituency.  According to Nedlac executive director Madoda Vilakazi, unless the federation can provide its audited financial statements, audited membership figures and other required documents, its application would not be approved.  Saftu has confirmed it does not have audited membership tally or financials yet as it was only established a year ago.  The federation led by former Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi has cried foul over the Nedlac admissions criteria and procedure, claiming it was being systematically blocked from being a part of the organisation that formulates labour market policy.  Vilakazi said Saftu would know the outcome of its application on approximately 6 April as Nedlac had only 30 days to consider the request made on 6 March.  The Nedlac labour constituency — Cosatu, Fedusa and Nactu — is responsible for the admission of labour federations.

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