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 afternoon roundup, see summaries
of our selection of South African labour-
related stories that appeared thus far on
Tuesday, 8 May 2018.


TOP STORY – SAA BUSINESS RESCUE

Solidarity petitions Parliament to call a debate on SAA

Engineering News reports that trade union Solidarity on Tuesday petitioned Parliament to hold a debate in the House of Assembly on state-owned carrier South African Airways (SAA).  The union also urged the Government to support its application to place the airline under business rescue and to stop bailing the beleaguered carrier out.  The petition to Parliament followed the release, also on Tuesday, of a report on the condition of SAA drawn up by the Solidarity Research Institute (SRI).  The report charged that the “constant factor” in the failure of SAA has been its sole shareholder, namely the SA government.  It cited the failure of the government to implement two resolutions of the then SAA Board in 2014, namely to place the airline under business rescue and to find a strategic partner for it.  The union reaffirmed that it would, within the next two weeks, serve papers on the airline as part of the process of approaching the court to put SAA under business rescue.  “If we succeed in this case, it could set a precedent for similar action at other State enterprises,” pointed out SRI head Connie Mulder.

Read this report in full at Engineering News. Read Solidarity’s press statement in this regard at Solidarity News. Read too, SAA requires R5bn bailout to stay afloat, says treasury official, at Moneyweb


MINING LABOUR

Parliamentary committee calls for 'harsher consequences' for mines that don't prioritise safety

News24 reports that Parliament's Select Committee on Land and Mineral Resources has called for "harsher consequences" for a Sibanye-Stillwater mine if it could be found to have neglected measures to avert fatalities and loss of life prior to the deadly seismic events that occurred there last week.  Seven miners were killed at the company’s Driefontein Masakhane mine.  The committee's chairperson, Olefile Sefako, said:  "Although seismic events are a course of nature, it is high time that mining companies face serious consequences for neglecting measures for detecting early warning signs.  Investigations [into] the accident should seek to establish the extent to which priority was given to health and safety at the mine."  He indicated that the committee believed that the right technology to detect early signs of seismic events could be found or created if sufficient resources were made available to conduct research.  The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) said on Saturday that mine safety had become a human rights issue and that legislation should be strengthened to hold mining bosses criminally accountable for failing to ensure safety at operations.

Read this report by Jan Bornman in full at News24. Read the Select Committee’s press statement at Parliament Online. See too, MPs say Sibanye-Stillwater must face full wrath of the law if negligence caused deaths, at BusinessLive. And also, Early detection of seismic mine activity urged by minerals committee, at Business Report

DRDGold opts out of lung disease class action settlement

BusinessLive reports that DRDGold declined to be party to last week’s R5bn out-of-court settlement jointly with six other mining companies to compensate gold mineworkers affected by lung ailments.  This will open the smaller gold producer to a prolonged court battle alone.  The six companies made history last week by settling SA’s largest and most complex class action case out of court.  Richard Spoor, a lawyer representing the litigants, noted that DRDGold and Randgold & Exploration had decided not to participate in the settlement agreement and would be subject to ongoing litigation.  DRDGold CEO Niel Pretorius declined to comment on the reasons for staying out of the settlement, saying there was likely to be a litigation process brought against the company and he could not make any remarks at this point.  DRDGold has not operated underground mines for years, preferring to extract gold from old dumps.  It is surmised that for a company like DRDGold, which had relatively small exposure to underground gold mining and is a small company compared with the six that have settled, the cost of participating in the out-of-court settlement would have been an expensive exercise compared to what the outcome could be from litigation.

Read this report by Allan Seccombe in full at BusinessLive

Other labour / community posting(s) relating to mining

  • Sibanye-Stillwater stocks dive after deadly mine accident, at Fin24
  • Lawyer urges mines to regularly scrutinise health and safety systems to ensure compliance, at Minng Weekly
  • Radebe: IPPs did not cause job losses in coal sector, at Fin24


COLLECTIVE BARGAINING / WAGE NEGOTIATIONS

Public sector wage battle a threat to SA’s cost-cutting targets, Finance Minister warns

Reuters reports that Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene said on Tuesday that SA would struggle to stick to a promise to cut spending if the government failed to agree inflation-linked wage increase with public-sector trade unions.  Plans to reduce government spending helped to avoid a damaging credit rating downgrade by Moody’s in March, but the promised cuts provoked criticism from unions amongst others.  The government and public-sector unions representing teachers, nurses and the police and others have been locked in negotiations over wage increases since late 2017.  Unions are lobbying for above-inflation pay rises of about 12%, while government has tabled offers linked to consumer inflation, which currently stands at 3.8%.  Last month the Public Servants Association (PSA) declared a wage dispute with government, while unions affiliated to Cosatu have also threatened to pull out of negotiations.

Read this report by Wendell Roelf and Mfuneko Toyana in full at BusinessLive


INDUSTRIAL ACTION / STRIKES

Nehawu to say on Tuesday whether healthcare strike in North West to be continued with

ANA reports that the National Education Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) on Monday held a provincial shop stewards council in the North West to assess a two-month-long strike called to demand that the head of the provincial health department should step down.  “The aim of the council is to make an assessment and map a way forward on the current strike action in the department of health and department of social development,” spokesperson Khaya Xaba indicated.  The union will announce its decision as to whether to continue with the strike at a press conference on Tuesday.  Nehawu members downed tools on 19 February, demanding the dismissal of the head of the department of health, Dr Thabo Lekalakala, and the termination of the contracts of companies engaged by the department.  They were also demanding bonus payments of 5% across the board to all employees in the department, payment of occupation specific dispensation (OSD) for employees at the provincial office and an increase in the salaries of community health workers. (Note: As at 15h00 on Tuesday no report had yet appeared on outcome of Nehawu’s press conference).

Read this report in full at The Citizen

Golden Arrow warns that bus strike could jeopardise the industry’s future

EWN reports that Golden Arrow Bus Services says the ongoing national bus strike could jeopardise the industry’s future.  The strike has entered its fourth week, forcing millions of commuters to find alternative transport.  Spokesperson Bronwen Dyke-Beyer said:  “The demands by labour have been too high to be accommodated by the industry.  Conceding to such demands would jeopardise the sustainability of bus companies across South Africa.”  According to Dyke-Beyer, over the past 10 years the bus industry has increased wages by 9.22% on average per year.  She claimed these increases have consistently been the highest increases in the country for all categories of work.  “This is against a backdrop of stagnating economic growth in contrast to an average CPI over the last 10 years of 5.39% and an average annual increase of commuter subsidies of 5.19%.  Therefore, they cannot maintain a practice of paying 59% more than the minimum rates agreed to by the unions.”

This short report by Kaylynn Palm is at EWN

Luxor Paints lays the blame for violence with strikers

Afro Voice reports that Luxor Paints claimed on Monday that any violence that had occurred at its premises had been initiated by striking employees.  Company spokesperson Joan Strydom said strikers were a threat to life and property and to nonstriking workers.  A strike by General Industrial Workers Union of SA (Giwusa) members entered its tenth week on Monday, with workers alleging that the company had hired a security company that used extreme violence against them.  Strydom said:  “The violent conduct of the strikers formed the basis of an urgent Labour Court application to interdict the perpetrators of the violent and unlawful conduct.  The unfortunate incident of the person who was accidentally hit with a rubber bullet in the eye, resulted during extreme acts of violence by the striking workers.”  She added that some of the non-striking workers had been hospitalised as a result of the violence by protesters.  Strydom reported that about 111 employees had been dismissed, not for participating in the strike but for repeatedly committing violent and unlawful conduct and breaching the court interdict.  Joshua Hlungwani, a striking worker, said that the workers had suffered at the hands of the company and had lodged claims against Luxor.

Read this report by Hloni Mashigo in full on page 5 of AfroVoice of 8 May 2018


UNION NEWS / STRUCTURES / ORGANISATIONAL REPORTS

Cosatu veteran Tony Ehrenreich denies Saftu link

AfroVoice reports that Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) veteran Tony Ehrenreich has ruled out joining the ranks of rival trade union federation the South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu).  “I have not had any conversations with Saftu,” he said, adding that he would rather remain in the ranks of Cosatu and work at the grassroots, than throw in his lot with any other organisation.  Ehrenreich, the long-serving Western Cape secretary of Cosatu, recently announced that he would not be available for another term when the federation holds its elective provincial congress later this year.  Cosatu president S’dumo Dlamini said he found the behaviour of Ehrenreich confusing as this was not in line with the behaviour of a unionist as he should just be making sure he did his union work – and not pronounce on his future.  Saftu spokesperson Patrick Craven said rumours of Ehrenreich joining its ranks were media speculation.  “I wouldn’t like to comment on the matter further,” Craven said.

Read this report by Hloni Mashigo in full at AfroVoice


LABOUR MARKET / JOBS

Aspen’s new facility in Port Elizabeth to create 500 additional jobs

BusinessLive reports that an additional 500 jobs will be created by Aspen Pharmacare’s new R1bn facility in Port Elizabeth, where the pharmaceutical manufacturer will produce specialised products for chronic conditions.  The official opening on Monday marked a shift for Aspen from commodity generics into specialised products with niche markets.  The additional 500 jobs will add to the more than 2,000 jobs at the company’s flagship site in Port Elizabeth.  The group employs more than 10,000 people globally, 40% of whom are employed in SA.  Aspen is also in the process of establishing a training academy to give its employees the opportunity to attain national accredited qualifications in pharmaceutical manufacture.  Aspen group CEO Stephen Saad said at the opening of the facility that it would allow the group to expand its export of products.  Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies officiated at the opening, while Nelson Mandela Bay mayor Athol Trollip said the investment demonstrated the company’s confidence in the city’s future growth potential.

Read this report by Linda Ensor in full at BusinessLive

‘400 without work after Eastern Cape citrus warehouse set alight’

Netwerk24 reports that the Riverside citrus warehouse near Fort Beaufort in the Eastern Cape has been burnt to the ground.  Lona, the holding company of the Riverside farm located in the Katrivier valley, confirmed in a short statement that on Monday morning the warehouse was completely destroyed.  No injuries were reported.  There are rumours that the warehouse was set alight by disgruntled workers.  Capt. Khaya Tonjeni, provincial police spokesman, said on Monday that although no one had been taken into custody, a case of arson had been opened.  Warehouse director Errol Hewson declined to comment on the cause of the fire, which broke out in the midst of a wage dispute.  Negotiations apparently resumed on Monday morning.  A reliable source reckoned that if the warehouse was indeed completely destroyed, between 300 and 400 workers would be without work.  It is reckoned that it will take at least a year to get the warehouse back into production if it has been completely destroyed in view of the specialised machinery that was in use. (Loosely translated from Afrikaans)

Read the original of this report by Carla-Lee Dorfling in Afrikaans at Netwerk24 (limit on free access)


DISCRIMINATION / RACISM / SEXISM

SAHRC to continue probe into discrimination, racism, sexism and harassment at Unisa

News24 reports that the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) will continue with the second leg of its hearings into allegations of unfair discrimination, racism, sexism and harassment at the University of South Africa (Unisa) from Tuesday.  The hearings started in February this year after Unisa's vice-chancellor Professor Mandla Makhanya requested the SAHRC to look into allegations at the university's College of Law.  Gail Smith, spokesperson for the SAHRC, indicated:  "During the first sitting of the hearing, the commission invited staff members at the College of Law, unions and management at Unisa to present oral and written submissions to the investigation panel.”  Following the allegations of widespread racism and lack of transformation at Unisa, the SAHRC decided to broaden its scope and investigate allegations at the entire institution.  During the second sitting of the hearing, staff members, interested parties and the Unisa management will have an opportunity to present their oral testimonies to the panel.  

Read this report by Jan Bornman in full at News24. Read the SAHRC’s press statement in this regard at SAHRC Online. See too, Racism probe at Unisa broadened to cover ‘entire institution’, at Timeslive

Unisa professor denies bullying staff, claims colleagues want to tarnish his image

ANA reports that academic planning executive director at the University of SA (Unisa), Professor Peter Havenga, indicated to the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) on Tuesday that allegations made against him were attempts to tarnish his reputation.  He has been accused of making the working environment intolerable for black women in his department.  Havenga’s response was contained in written submissions made to the SAHRC investigation panel.  It was the final leg of the hearing which commenced on 20 February following a request from Unisa vice-chancellor Prof Mandla Makhanya to investigate allegations of unfair discrimination, racism, sexism and harassment at the institution’s College of Law.  Havenga accused the director at the directorate of academic planning, accreditation and registration, Alice Mkuzangwe, of unfair labour practice, bullying and victimising her staff, insubordination, duty negligence, fraud and corruption.  He denied all allegations leveled against him and said he was being targeted because he was principled and spoke his mind.  The hearings will run until Thursday.

Read this report in full at The Citizen


DISMISSALS / SUSPENSIONS

SABC says dismissal of striking workers in licence collection division was justified

ANA reports that the SA Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) has issued a terse statement in which it said it “would like to put the record straight on the matter concerning the employees who were relieved of their duties”.  The public broadcaster fired the employees a day after Worker’s Day.  Weekend reports indicated the licence division at the broadcaster was left seriously understaffed after the employees were dismissed for taking part in what they said was a legal go-slow action.  “The SABC would like to put it on record that the employees referred to committed an act of misconduct in that they embarked on an unprotected strike,” the statement issued Monday by acting spokesperson, Mmoni Seapolelo indicated.  It went on to state:  “Despite numerous attempts by Management to dissuade them from continuing with this unlawful action, they continued with the action.  Consequently, they were subjected to an internal disciplinary process which was in compliance with the requirements of procedural and substantive fairness.”

This short report is at The Citizen. Read too, SABC ‘puts the record straight’ after 26 employees fired, at News24. And also, 26 SABC employees fired for ‘misconduct’, at EWN

Firing of SABC staff in TV licence department puts collection of fees in jeopardy

BusinessLive reports that the SA Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) has fired 26 staff at its TV licence department after a go-slow, thereby placing in jeopardy the collection of fees.  Spokesperson Mmoni Seapolelo said on Monday the employees had been sacked for misconduct.  The dismissed employees are said to have participated in what they thought was a legal go-slow.  Seapoleo indicated:  "Despite numerous attempts by management to dissuade them [the employees] from continuing with this unlawful action, they continued with the action.  Consequently they were subjected to an internal disciplinary process, which was in compliance with the requirements of procedural and substantive fairness.”  Only a few staff are believed to remain at the department, as the SABC continues to struggle to collect licence fees and to address its financial crisis.  The public broadcaster is heavily reliant on advertising and revenue from licence fees to stay afloat.  It recorded a loss of R977m after tax in 2016-17.  Yet, it hopes to return to profitability in the 2019-20 financial year.  It was recently revealed in parliament that the SABC was owed just more than R25bn in unpaid licence fees by April 2017 and that less than a third of people with TV licences were paying their annual fees

Read this report by Bekezela Phakathi in full at BusinessLive


WORKPLACE ABUSE / EXPLOITATION

Former deputy minister Manana breaks his silence on domestic worker ‘attack’

The Citizen writes that, after reports emerged on Monday that ANC MP and former deputy minister Mduduzi Manana was embroiled in yet another allegation of woman abuse, he released a statement about the matter.  He denied that he had been abusive towards his middle-aged domestic worker and also implied that she might have stolen from him.  He also made it clear that he thought she had a bad attitude as an employee.  He bizarrely claimed that he had been trying to prevent his employee, Catherine Wiro, from being raped in his home and that, despite that, she was too laissez-faire in granting access to guests.  Manana did not specifically deny that he had in fact pushed her down the stairs at his home, saying that certain aspects of the case were now “sub judice”.  He merely said that at one point he asked her to leave his house.  Reports emerged earlier that Manana had allegedly paid Wiro off to drop the case of assault, crimen injuria and intimidation she had laid against him on Sunday.  However, Manana claimed it was in fact Wiro who had tried to “extort” R100,000 from him.  The case of assault has reportedly been withdrawn.

Read this report by Charles Cilliers in full at The Citizen. Read too, Manana’s domestic worker allegedly offered R100k to withdraw charges, at The Citizen. And also, Domestic worker withdraws assault complaint against Mduduzi Manana, at Timeslive

Manana to sue family of domestic worker for extortion after assault claims

BusinessLive reports that former higher education deputy minister Mduduzi Manana is set to sue the family of his domestic worker following claims of assault.  In a statement issued on Monday night‚ Manana — who pleaded guilty to an assault case in 2017 — said the family of Catherine Wiro had tried to extort him out of R100‚000.  Wiro opened a police case against Manana at the weekend‚ but the assault case was withdrawn in court on Monday.  "I am aware that a case of assault has been withdrawn but I have instructed my lawyers to file a legal suit against the Wiro family for extortion as they demanded an amount of R100,000.  Instead‚ I gave Ms Wiro money that was due to her for the two weeks … that she worked at my home‚" said Manana.  In the statement‚ Manana denied assaulting Wiro‚ a Zimbabwean national‚ but did describe the incident that took place as an "altercation" over the his unhappiness that she "often [gave] access to everyone who comes to my home".  He also described her claims as "both unfortunate and malicious".  Manana said the claims of assault were simply to discredit him given his assault conviction.

Read this report by Matthew Savides in full at BusinessLive. Read Manana’s statement at Timeslive. See too, DA to lodge complaint against Manana following assault allegations, at City Press. And also, ANCWL backs Manana’s former domestic worker, at EWN

Exploitation of foreign domestic workers is rife in SA‚ say unionists

Timeslive reports that according to unionists, many foreign nationals who are employed as domestic workers in SA are underpaid and coerced into working long hours.  In extreme cases‚ they even have their identity documents withheld‚ according to Sizwe Pamla‚ spokesperson for labour federation Cosatu.  The Cosatu-aligned SA Domestic Service and Allied Workers Union (Sadsawu) on Tuesday encouraged cleaners‚ including foreigners‚ to resist exploitation by their employers.  “(It is common for) employers looking for domestic workers to ask the person if she is a South African.  If she is a South African‚ they don’t take her.  They say South Africans think that they are smart.  These employers want migrant workers‚ not because they love them‚ but because they will be able to pay a low wage‚” said the union’s Eunice Dladla.  She noted that domestic workers from other parts of the continent were afraid to seek help‚ but said the union was willing to assist them.  Unfair working hours is the most common complaint the union receives.  Pamla said Cosatu was “appalled by a spike in the incidents of abuse of domestic workers in South Africa.”

Read this report by Penwell Dlamini in full at Timeslive. Read too, Four Eastern Cape cleaners accuse boss of cleaning company of sexual abuse, at Timeslive

 


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