Today's Labour News

newsThis news aggregator site highlights South African labour news from a wide range of internet and print sources. Each posting has a synopsis of the source article, together with a link or reference to the original. Postings cover the range of labour related matters from industrial relations to generalist human resources.

news shutterstockIn our roundup of weekend news, see summaries of our
selection of South African labour-related stories
that appeared since Friday, 23 March 2018.


TOP STORY – MINIMUM WAGES

Labour Minister to give update on Monday on national minimum wage bill process

News24 reports that Minister of Labour Mildred Oliphant is due on Monday to update the media on the progress made regarding the National Minimum Wage (NMW) bill.  She is expected to outline what the parliamentary process will entail and the way forward.  The NMW was to have been implemented from 1 May, but last week acting chairwoman of the parliamentary portfolio committee on labour, Sharome van Schalkwyk, agreed to proposals that the deadline be pushed back.  This was to allow MPs time to consider the more than 40 public submissions received on the draft legislation.  The SA Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) had demanded that Parliament give more time to debate the wage bill and amendments to other labour laws, as well as to consult those most affected, namely workers.  In a statement, Saftu demanded that Oliphant reopen the debate and welcome more submissions.  The Democratic Alliance had also argued that there would not be enough time to consider the bill to enable it to be ready for approval by 27 March.

Based on reports at Business Live and News24

Sectoral wage determinations ‘must stay’ after national minimum wage becomes law

BusinessLive reports that strong opposition has been expressed in Parliament to the abolition of sectoral wage determinations once the national minimum wage (NMW) bill becomes law.  Parliament’s labour portfolio committee is holding public hearings on the NMW bill and related amendments to the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA) and the Labour Relations Act (LRA).  A researcher with the NMW Research Initiative at Wits University, Gilad Isaacs, told the committee on Friday that sectoral determinations, which govern non-unionised sectors, were an important tool to protect the most vulnerable workers and to reduce poverty and wage inequality.  Michael Bagraim of the Democratic Alliance (DA) agreed that the provision for sectoral determinations should remain on the statute books.  Sectoral determinations are set by the minister of labour on the recommendations of the Employment Conditions Commission (ECC).  A proposed amendment to the BCEA would remove the possibility of updating existing sectoral determinations and instituting new ones.  It also stipulates that for only three years following the commencement of the NMW Act, wages set by sectoral determinations that are higher than the minimum wage must increase proportionally to any adjustment made to the NMW.  Cosatu, Fedusa and Nactu have proposed that the NMW Commission take over the function of the ECC and undertake an annual review of the minimum wages and conditions set in sectoral determinations.

Read this report by Linda Ensor in full at BusinessLive


LABOUR LAW AMENDMENTS

Numsa to down tools on 25 April to defend the right to strike

Fin24 reports that the National Union of Mineworkers of SA (Numsa) on Thursday called on its members to embark on a general strike on 25 April 2018 to defend the right to strike.  Parliament is currently considering amendments to the Labour Relations Act (LRA), the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA), as well as the new National Minimum Wage Bill.  The union said the new regulations were intended to come into effect on 1 May and, if implemented, “will make it impossible for workers to go on strike.”  The proposed amendments would among other things introduce measures that would curb violent protests and would require trade unions to hold secret ballots to decide on strikes.  Numsa has rejected the proposed voting process as “complicated, costly and cumbersome”.  The union noted that it was part of a coalition of 21 pro-working class movements which have rejected the proposed labour law changes.  Numsa will be working with the #ScrapNewLabourLaws coalition to mobilise workers nationwide about the negative impact of the proposed labour laws and to shut down the economy on 25 April.

Read this report in full at Fin24. Read Numsa’s press statement in this regard at Politicsweb


OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH & SAFETY

Pietermaritzburg waste picker's death a 'tragedy', says deputy environmental affairs minister

News24 reports that Deputy Environmental Affairs Minister Barbara Thomson on Sunday labelled the death of a waste picker, who was killed after being caught in a trash compactor vehicle, as a tragedy.  "I am deeply hurt to learn about Ms [Nswaki] Mahlakwane's tragedy.  She had gone to the landfill site to fend for her family, just as she and many of her colleagues do on a daily basis," said Thomson in a statement.  She added that the department was in continual engagement with all those involved, "including the Waste Pickers Association in our effort to improve the conditions under which the waste pickers operate".  Police are investigating a case of culpable homicide after Mahlakwane, aged 57, died at the New England landfill site in Pietermaritzburg on Wednesday.  Groundup reported that Mahlakwane was accidently knocked over.

Read this report in full at News24

Other internet posting(s) in this news category

  • KZN security guard killed by train on his way to work, at News24


MINING LABOUR

Maximum of R500,000 per person in silicosis payout

City Press reports that the long-awaited settlement for former gold mine workers with lung diseases will apparently be between R70,000 and R500,000 per person.  Spokesman for the mines, Alan Fine, denied this late on Friday and said that there was no settlement yet, but that there might be one soon.  These were, however, the figures presented to unions in Johannesburg on Friday and would most likely be sent to the Pretoria High Court for approval within the next month.  Coincidentally, SA’s controversial separate statutory system for compensating mine workers with lung diseases will this month be increasing its payouts for the first time in almost a decade.  The maximum state payout to mine workers disabled by an occupational diseases will now be a once-off amount of R140,506, which will be almost 40% more than the R105,012 it has been stuck at since 2009.  However, even this long-delayed increase will still amount to a decrease in the real value of the compensation.  The minimum payout has increased from R34 458 to R46 105.  For a fatal and incurable disease such as silicosis, an ill mineworker will be entitled to at least R116,000 and at most R640,000.

Read this report by Dewald van Rensburg in full at Fin24

NUM claims workers at Gupta-owned coal mines not paid for March

ANA reports that the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) on Friday expressed concern that workers at the Gupta-owned Optimum and Koornfontein coal mines had not yet been paid for March.  The union said in a statement:  “In meetings held between the Business Rescue Practitioner (BRP) and the NUM, BRP committed himself to pay the workers by the end of the month.  It is yet another false promise.  The BRP had meetings with both the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) and Parliament Portfolio Committee on Mineral Resources and promised that workers will be paid.”  The union went on to call on the BRP to fulfill fully the promises he had made and to make sure that all the employees were paid their salaries.  Workers at the mines went on strike in February when their salaries were not paid on time.  In February, various Gupta-owned businesses, including Optimum Coal, Optimum Coal Terminal and Koornfontein mines were placed under business rescue.

Read this report in full at The Citizen. Read the NUM’s press statement at Cosatu Today

Other labour / community posting(s) relating to mining

  • Multipronged approach needed to combat SA’s illegal mining scourge, at Mining Weekly
  • Lonmin hands over New Marikana primary school to Basic Education Department, at Mining Weekly
  • Bakgatla Ba Kgafwela may lose control of millions of rands, at Fin24

Postings on Mining Charter

  • With narrative dominated by Chamber of Mines and DMR, black miners fear mining charter will fall short, at BL Premium (paywall access)
  • New Mining Charter must facilitate a rebirth of mining says Chamber of Mines, at Fin24


DISPUTES

Labour dispute delays services on Saturdays at Home Affairs in Limpopo

SABC News reports that Department of Home Affairs (DHA) clients queuing outside the offices in Tzaneen in Limpopo have urged Minister Malusi Gigaba to intervene to make sure that the offices were opened on Saturdays.  The DHA offices have not been operating for months now on Saturdays due to a labour dispute around the weekend shift.  In Tzaneen, the situation has resulted in some people being turned away during the week due to long queues.  Mimmy Mhlongo, one of hundreds of people queuing there and hoping that the offices would be opened, said:  “I have arrived here at half past five … we want them to work on Saturdays so that they can help those who are working during the week and those who are going to school.”

This short report by Witness Tiva is at SABC News


LABOUR MARKET / JOBS

Tiger Brands cuts 300 contract jobs at four plants in wake of listeriosis crisis

City Press reports that up to 300 contractor or temporary jobs have been culled at four plants that Tiger Brands has shut down or where it has suspended operations as the food giant tries to contain the damage caused by its association with the listeriosis crisis.  The four plants that it has shut down completely or temporarily are the Value Added Meat Product facility in Pretoria, the Enterprise Foods factories in Polokwane and Germiston, and the Clayville abattoir.  Spokesperson Nevashnee Naicker said that these four plants employed about 1,800 permanent workers and 300 contractors.  In addition, there were approximately 140 sales and admin staff across all four sites collectively.  Naicker advised:  “No permanent staff members have been impacted at this stage.  Temporary staff, who are normally assigned by labour brokers, have, however, been impacted.  The number of contractors fluctuates depending on operational requirements, however, approximately 300 contractors are employed collectively across all four sites.”  Naicker said it was premature to comment on job cuts in respect of permanent staff at this stage.  The major trade unions representing workers at the four plants are Fawu and Saccawu.

Read this report by Justin Brown in full at Fin24. Read too statement by Tiger Brands that listeriosis confirmed found at Polokwane factory, at Politicsweb


RENEWABLE ENERGY AND JOBS

Amcu demands summit to discuss renewable energy and jobs

Mining Weekly reports that the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) has called for an urgent summit with labour, state-owned power utility Eskom and government to discuss renewable energy and jobs.  The trade union said in a statement on Friday that the departments of trade and industry and economic development had to formulate an industrialisation plan to ensure that SA produced renewable energy inputs through labour-intensive methods of production.  It indicated support for the need to move to a low-carbon economy, but stressed that it should be a “just transition” where renewable energy both became the main energy source and the basis for affordable electricity for all.  The union indicated that it agreed with several other trade unions which have expressed concern with government’s policy of addressing climate change through its privatised renewable energy programme.

Read this report in full at Mining Weekly

You’re going to create coal mining ghost towns‚ government warned by coal transporters

Timeslive reports that Eskom’s plan to sign agreements with 27 independent power producers (IPPs) will cause massive job losses and turn places where there are coal mines into ghost towns, according to the Coal Transporters Forum (CTF).  The forum also argued in its court application to halt the IPP deal that the plan was not in line with the country’s energy requirements as there was an excess supply of electricity.  While the date for the CTF case has not been set down‚ the High Court in Pretoria will on 27 March hear an urgent application by Transform RSA and the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) to stall the IPP deal.  Energy minister Jeff Radebe had intended to sign the power purchase agreements with 27 IPPs on 13 March, this did not happen because of the court process.  Numsa and Transform RSA want the court to interdict Radebe from signing the power purchase agreements with IPPs‚ pending the finalisation of the application by the CTF.  In its application filed last year‚ the forum – which represents coal truck owners contracted to Eskom – wanted to stop Eskom from signing any power purchase agreements with IPP’s pending a decision by the National Energy Regulator of SA (Nersa).  The CTF’s Mpho Mokwana said in his founding affidavit that as a result of the IPP deals, a number of coal mines would close and towns in Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal, including Emalahleni‚ Ermelo‚ Newcastle and Piet Retief, would be reduced to ghost towns.  He also claimed that coal transporters and mining suppliers‚ contractors and businesses in all these towns would be forced to retrench workers.

Read this report by Ernest Mabuza in full at Timeslive. Read too, Numsa is not anti-Green, it is pro-labour, at Fin24


EXECUTIVE PAY / WAGE GAP

Steinhoff proposes good rewards for executives despite sinking shares

Business Times reports that troubled retailer Steinhoff' plans to reward its directors for doing an "exceptionally demanding" job despite the company wiping out almost €12-billion (about R174-billion) of shareholders' money in an accounting scandal last year.  Steinhoff proposed in its Friday AGM notice that its interim chair, Heather Sonn, receive €200,000 (about R3.2m) and supervisory board member Johan van Zyl €100,000 (R1.5m) because of the "exceptional demands" of the job.  In addition, Steve Booysen, head of the audit committee and former Absa CEO, will receive €200,000 (about R3.2m), doubling what he earned in 2016.  In response to questions, Steinhoff said:  "The proposed amounts are a fair reflection of the extraordinary effort and people that are required in order to stabilise the company and restore value to investors.”  An analyst described the pay structure at Steinhoff as "complicated given the accounting irregularities".  Shareholders will vote on the resolution on 20 April in Amsterdam.  Michael Jacks of Arqaam Capital said he believed shareholders would not vote against the remuneration proposals and added:  "If you look at Sonn's total suggested remuneration, it's not out of line with what CEOs and directors earn in South Africa.  And they are probably working around the clock on this scandal."  Former CEO Markus Jooste earned €5.6m (about R81.2m) a year, according to Steinhoff's 2016 annual report.

Read this report by Palesa Vuyolwethu Tshandu in full at BL Premium (paywall access)


RESTRUCTURING / RETRENCHMENTS / COMPANY JOB LOSSES

SABC top brass to meet disgruntled unions over planned changes at news division

News24 reports that the SA Broadcasting Corporation’s (SABC’s) acting CEO Nomsa Philiso is planning to meet unions to discuss proposed changes at the public broadcaster’s news division that have upset many staff members.  The broadcaster’s spokesperson, Kaizer Kganyago, confirmed on Friday that in an effort to resolve the impasse, Philiso would meet the unions to discuss the issues.  Aubrey Tshabalala of the Communication Workers Union (CWU) said the two main issues were that the proposed changes would be made without consultation, and that plans to reshuffle programming at SAfm and commercialise it would be in violation of the broadcaster's mandate to dedicate that station to public service.  If the changes went ahead, the CWU said it would have no option but to go the legal route.  Tshabalala claimed that some of the changes involved bringing new staff members on board, whereas the SABC was supposed to be penny pinching.  Comment was not immediately available from the other representative union, the Broadcasting, Electronic, Media and Allied Workers' Union (Bemawu).

Read this report by Jenni Evans in full at News24. Read too, Labour unions threaten SABC with legal action over ‘changes’ at news division, at The Citizen

DISMISSALS / SUSPENSIONS / UNFAIR LABOUR PRACTICES


ConCourt to decide if singing of ‘Kill the boer’ is grounds for dismissal

The Star reports that the Constitutional Court (ConCourt) is due to bring finality to the question of whether the singing of a struggle song with the lyrics “Kill the boer” is grounds for firing black workers for being racist.  A group of eight National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) members is fighting an attempt by their former employer, Ekurhuleni-based Duncanmec, to avoid reinstating them in accordance with an award after they were unfairly fired for singing a struggle song with those lyrics.  The company claims its management on site was offended and felt threatened by the song.  The ConCourt will hear the matter in May.  Duncanmec has accused the Metal and Engineering Industries Bargaining Council (MEIBC) arbitrator who handled the case of being “soft on racism” and seeking to justify the singing of the song on the basis of historical context.  The eight members embarked on an unprotected strike in April 2013.  They were fired a month after the strike, but took their case of unfair dismissal to the MEIBC, which found that their firing was substantively unfair and reinstated them.  The company then took the matter on review to the Labour Court, where it failed.  Leave to appeal to the Labour Appeal Court was also denied.  The ConCourt will now hear the matter.

Read this report by Loyiso Sidimba in full at The Star

Other internet posting(s) in this news category

  • Suspension at SARS of Tom Moyane 'long overdue', says BLSA head, at Fin24


SEXUAL ASSAULT / HARASSMENT / ABUSE

Suspensions after alleged sexual assault at Unisa child centre

eNCA reports that the University of SA (Unisa) on Friday said it had taken note of and was gravely concerned about allegations of sexual harassment and possibly rape against one of its employees at its Centre for Early Childhood Education (UCECE).  The university said, categorically, that it had zero-tolerance towards all forms of harassment in the workplace and where complaints of harassment were brought to its attention, they were fully investigated and pursued vigorously, until they reached finality.  The institution said it had "as a matter of procedure" placed two employees on suspension.  The same matter has apparently been reported to the SA Police Service (SAPS), which was conducting its own investigation.  The university has undertaken to co-operate fully with the SAPS investigation.

Read this report in full at eNCA

Other internet posting(s) in this news category

  • Man accused of raping domestic worker denied bail, at News24


COMMUTING / TRANSPORT SERVICES

Getting trains working in Cape Town an “urgent task” for transport minister, but no time frame provided

GroundUp reports that after it wrote to the Ministry of Transport to ask what was being done to help improve the situation of Metrorail in Cape Town, Minister Dr Blade Nzimande said that stabilising Metrorail was a priority.  “Our immediate and urgent task is to stabilise and provide a predictable Metrorail service within current capacity.  The Minister has instructed Prasa [Passenger Rail Agency of SA] to work on the recovery plan to add additional train sets in the Cape Town Metrorail network,” ministry spokesperson Ishmael Mnisi said.  When asked about when interventions were to be implemented, the Ministry did not provide any timelines.  In October 2017, the City of Cape Town announced its intention to take over management of Metrorail from Prasa.  Councillor Brett Herron, Mayco Member for Transport and Urban Development, said:  “The City is doing all we can to address the challenges the urban rail system is facing, given that our mandate in this respect is limited to a supporting role at this stage.”  Mnisi said that there were “no discussions with the City of Cape Town”, but that the department was “in continuous engagement with the MEC for Transport in the Western Cape to ensure that we collectively find an amicable solution towards the challenges experienced by commuters in the Western Cape rail corridor”.

Read this report by Aidan Jones in full at GroundUp

 


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