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
Thursday, 13 September 2018.


OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH & SAFETY

RDM providing assistance in various forms to next of kin of blast victims

Cape Argus reports that management at the Rheinmetall Denel Munition (RDM) factory in Macassar has made ex gratia payments to the victim of families who lost their lives in an explosion at the facility.  The factory’s leadership had initially contributed funds towards the expenses involved in hosting relatives as part of the mourning process.  The families were also invited to attend a lunch hosted by RDM on Wednesday.  RDM chief executive Norbert Schulze said this formed part of a series of engagements with the families, RDM staff and the greater community as part of the healing process.  Eight workers died last Monday after the propellant blending room they were working in disintegrated in the explosion.  The cause of the blast is still being investigated by the police, the Labour Department and an independent investigator.  RDM is providing ongoing trauma counselling to all staff members.  “The main focus remains on taking care of the families, but there is also further community engagement planned,” Schulze indicated.  The company had hoped that the results of the police’s forensic investigations would be ready by Tuesday, but that was now expected by the end of this week.  Schulze indicated that the company would continue to provide regular updates, but could only release the names of the deceased once the identification process had been concluded and only after consultation with the families affected.

Read this report by Jason Felix in full at Cape Argus

Saftu plans to sue premier, MEC after deaths of three firefighters in Joburg fire

News24 reports that the SA Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) plans to sue those who knew that the Bank of Lisbon building was non-compliant with safety requirements prior to last week's deadly blaze.  "We have taken the decision to sue.  We are going after you comrades.  These are not chickens that died.  These are human beings, sons, breadwinners etc.  They will not die in vain," Saftu leader Zwelinzima Vavi warned during his address at a memorial service, held for those who lost their lives in the fire, at Ellis Park Arena on Wednesday.  Vavi was referring to Gauteng Premier David Makhura and MEC for Infrastructure and Development Jacob Mamabolo, neither of who attended the service.  Mamabolo revealed last week that a report showed that the building was only 21% compliant when it came to health and safety requirements.  "In that building, not one fire extinguisher was working.  All of the water pipes had dried up.  There was no water in that building.  Lives should never have been lost due to negligence and incompetence," Vavi stated.  The Democratic Municipal and Allied Workers Union of SA (Demawusa) demanded a judicial inquiry into the tragedy.  Firefighters Simphiwe Moropane, 28, Mduduzi Ndlovu, 40, and Khathutshelo Muedi, 37, died last Wednesday when they attempted to put out the blaze.  Moropane plunged to his death, after he slipped from the ledge while trying to get air.  Ndlovu and Muedi died from lack of oxygen after they became trapped in the building.

Read this report by Canny Maphanga in full at News24. Read too, Without water, Joburg firefighters were betrayed to die, at SowetanLive

Furious justice minister off to court over closed HQ at Poynton Building in Pretoria

ANA reports that Justice Minister Michael Masutha says he will go to court to challenge Tshwane Mayor Solly Msimanga’s decision to shut down the Poynton Building, which houses the department’s Pretoria headquarters, for safety reasons.  “The minister of justice and correctional services will have no option but to approach the courts on an urgent basis to challenge Councillor Msimanga’s decision,” the department indicated.  On Wednesday morning, Msimanga announced that nobody would be allowed into the building “until such time that all regulations are adhered to”.  Masutha said Msimanga should have considered “the dire consequences of shutting down the nerve centre” of the justice department.

This short report is at The Citizen. Read too, Tshwane building evacuated, shutdown for being unsafe, at News24

Eldorado Park secondary school pupil pulls gun on his teacher

Timeslive reports that a Gauteng learner pulled a gun on Wednesday at the Eldorado Park Secondary School and threatened to shoot a teacher.  The incident was confirmed by Gauteng education department spokesperson Steve Mabona‚ who said in a statement:  “It is alleged that‚ a learner at the said school drew a firearm and threatened to shoot an educator.  Fortunately‚ the said educator managed to confiscate the firearm and later handed it over to the Eldorado Police.”  The school governing body (SGB) was due start a disciplinary process against the learner on Thursday.  “The department has a policy of zero-tolerance to any form of misconduct.  Anyone found to be transgressing this policy will be dealt with in line with the South African Schools Act‚ which governs all schools‚” Mabona said.  The department is offering counselling at the school.

This short report by Nico Gous is at Timeslive. Read too, Eldos school learner points gun at teacher, threatens to shoot, at IOL News

Other internet posting(s) in this news category

  • Firefighters recall the pain, horror of Joburg fire, at IOL News


INDUSTRIAL ACTION / STRIKES

Solidarity approaches High Court to allow all members to strike in solidarity with Sasol employees

Engineering News reports that trade union Solidarity was due on Thursday to approach the High Court in Johannesburg for the right of its 180,000 members to go on strike in solidarity with Sasol employees, who have been on strike since earlier this month.  This follows after the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) refused an application from Solidarity for all of its members to protest against white employees’ exclusion from the second phase of Sasol’s Khanyisa empowerment scheme.

This short report is at Engineering News

Eskom investigating violence, intimidation cases related to recent wage strike

EWN reports that according to Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan, Eskom is investigating a number of cases of violence and intimidation that took place during the recent lengthy wage dispute, including bomb threats and “acts of outright sabotage”.  Responding in writing to a parliamentary question from Congress of the People (Cope) leader Mosiuoa Lekota, Gordhan provided details of 16 cases referred to police for further investigation.  They include arson, public violence and malicious damage to property.  Gordhan said investigations into incidents of violence and intimidation, the destruction of property and acts of outright sabotage during the Eskom wage dispute were in progress.  He added that the identification of implicated employees, using video footage and information from victims, was also underway.  According to Gordhan, Eskom has undertaken to make sure that all matters of a disciplinary and criminal nature were subjected to proper investigation.

Read this report by Gaye Davis at EWN


UNION NEWS / STRUCTURES / ORGANISATIONAL REPORTS

Cosatu lost over 317,000 members in past three years

The Star reports that Cosatu has lost more than 317,000 members in the past three years and its affiliates are defying the organisation’s leadership in the face of deep internal fights over money for subscriptions.  The labour federation’s political and organisational reports for its upcoming congress show its membership continued to decline after the expulsion of its biggest affiliate, Numsa.  According to the organisational report, Cosatu has haemorrhaged 317,463 members since 2015 - a number that is more than the total membership of its current biggest affiliate, Nehawu, which has 275,083 members.  The federation’s membership sharply dropped from 1,923,436 in 2015 to 1,605,973 this year, a 16.5% decline.  The SA Transport and Allied Workers’ Union (Satawu) has suffered a 53.4% drop in membership, from 218014 in 2015 to 101458 this year - the biggest loss by a Cosatu affiliate.  And, the organisation continues to be confronted by declining membership, particularly in respect of industrial unions such as the National Union Mineworkers.  “We now have a challenge of unions with membership under 20,000 and experience has taught us that such a union cannot be sustained,” the report notes.  Cosatu woes are undermining its capacity to act in a unified way, despite interventions that gave it more authority over its affiliates.  “Because of its lack of capacity, and the weak link between affiliates and its centre, Cosatu as a federation is unable to support, in a consistent way, an affiliate which is weak or is experiencing internal problems,” the report indicates.

Read this report by Siviwe Feketha in full at IOL News

S'dumo Dlamini said to want a third term as Cosatu president

SowetanLive writes that Cosatu president S'dumo Dlamini apparently still harbours ambitions of clinging on to power after serving two terms at the helm of the labour federation.  Dlamini has apparently been lobbying some affiliates behind closed doors to nominate him to contest for the position.  An insider commented:  "Maybe there is some room for him to come back and fix whatever mistakes that might have happened before, but it’s a question of affiliates.  If they want to nominate him, they have a right to do so."  Earlier in the year, indications were that Dlamini would not be standing for re-election.  If in the ring, he will come up against his deputy Zingiswa Losi at the federation's 13th national congress which commences on Monday.  She has already been nominated by Nehawu, while the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) has said it preferred Losi to be the next Cosatu president.  NUM general secretary David Sipunzi commented:  "We are not aware that comrade S'dumo is willing to run for re-election.  As NUM, we have already requested comrade Losi to sign the nomination for the position of the president.  We were of the hope that comrade S'dumo is not availing himself [and] now it’s a shock to us if he intends to avail himself.  However, we have heard nothing as far as that is concerned."

Read this report by Neo Goba in full at SowetanLive


PRICES / TARIFFS

Cosatu, lobby groups and NGOs try to convince Parliament to zero rate chicken

BusinessLive reports that strong support was expressed by lobby groups and nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) in Parliament on Wednesday for chicken to be included in the list of zero-rated items.  Parliament’s finance committee heard submissions on the recommendations of a panel of experts, which had considered what additional items could be zero-rated in order to mitigate the effects of the recent one percentage point increase in the VAT rate to 15%, on the poor.  The panel recommended that white bread, bread flour, cake flour, sanitary products, school uniforms and nappies be zero-rated from VAT, in addition to the 19 items already zero-rated.  It considered zero-rating chicken, but was divided on the issue and so chicken was not included in its list of recommended items.  Union federation Cosatu’s Matthew Parks told MPs that they were disappointed that locally produced poultry was not recommended for zero rating.  He said poultry was a key nutrient for working-class families and making locally produced poultry VAT free would be an important boost for a fragile sector battered by imports.  The arguments by panel members opposed to zero-rating individually quick-frozen chicken were that the definition was not sufficiently rigorous to avoid the inclusion of other poultry products and this would therefore inflate the cost of zero-rating for the fiscus.

Read this report by Linda Ensor in full at BusinessLive


LABOUR MARKET / JOBS

250‚000 livelihoods at stake as Cogta’s Community Work Programme dragged to court

Timeslive reports that the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) is embroiled in a court battle over alleged procurement irregularities in one of the country’s largest and most successful employment programmes.  Affidavits suggest that the department might have flouted its own rules and procurement processes when appointing 11 new implementing agents to manage its Community Work Programme (CWP) – a national employment project with a R12-billion budget.  At stake are the livelihoods of a quarter of a million low-waged workers employed across the country through the programme.  The CWP is a government-funded initiative designed to cushion the poorest of the poor by providing regular low-skilled work opportunities like road maintenance‚ home and community-based care work‚ planting trees and maintaining food gardens‚ and fixing classrooms.  Participants are managed at various sites across the country by implementing agents‚ normally NGOs‚ who manage a sizeable chunk of the programme’s budget.  Citing non-compliance with various procurement regulations‚ the Seriti Institute– whose bid for a new three-year contract was declined – has approached the High Court in Pretoria to set the department’s decision aside and review the entire procurement process.

Read this report by Amil Umraw in full at Timeslive. Read too, NGO goes to court for slice of R12bn as it challenges Cogta over employment scheme, at SA Labour News

Ramaphosa tells Jewish community that SA needs jobs, jobs and more jobs

Timeslive reports that President Cyril Ramaphosa told the Jewish community in Cape Town on Wednesday that SA needs "jobs‚ jobs and more jobs".  He was addressing the congregation at the Gardens Synagogue as they celebrated the Jewish New Year‚ Rosh Hashanah.  Ramaphosa indicated that government wanted to attract $100bn in domestic and foreign investment over the next five years and went on to say:  "Part of this journey is the cultivation of a new generation of entrepreneurial South Africans who establish businesses for themselves and employment for others.  The Jewish community is ideally placed to contribute to this effort."  He called the state capture commission the "spearhead" of various interventions to fight corruption and "help us understand the depth of criminality that has impoverished our society and economy".  Ramaphosa also called on all South Africans to take part in the debate on land reform.  Ramaphosa reminded the gathering that the constitution protected cultural and religious rights and that anti-Semitism must be excised.  He also praised the contribution of Jews in developing South Africa.

Read this report by Nico Gous in full at BusinessLive

Other internet posting(s) in this news category

  • How the Gauteng Growth and Development Agency is helping businesses and creating jobs (sponsored article), at BusinessLive


RETIREMENT AND OTHER EMPLOYEE FUNDS

Government Employees Pension Fund (GEPF) may shift billions offshore as SA slides

BL Premium reports that the Government Employees Pension Fund (GEPF), which looks after R2-trillion on behalf of government workers, may shift hundreds of billions of rand offshore as it seeks to reduce its dependence on the local market.  Principal officer Abel Sithole said this week:  "The biggest change we want to realise is to be more diversified," while the primary reason would be to look for returns uncorrelated to the fortunes of the country.  The fund hopes to put in place a new strategic asset allocation framework in coming months.  While large-scale selling by an investor accounting for about 18% of the JSE could destabilise the market, for workers, and taxpayers who back their pensions, diversification could boost returns and offer a level of protection from a local market that has been hit by a shrinking economy.  Under current regulations, pension funds can invest as much as 30% of their portfolio directly offshore, with a further 10% for investment in the rest of Africa.  Thus as much as 40% of a pension fund can be invested outside SA.  Less than 10% of the GEPF assets are invested outside the country.  An increase from a 10% to a 40% allocation could see as much as R600bn looking for new pastures, equating to almost 13% of SA’s GDP.  The fund was consulting with the government, Sithole indicated.  Dennis George of Fedusa, one of the largest union federations representing government employees, said they hadn’t yet been consulted on the new strategy.  But, understood the argument for diversifying away from the JSE.

Read this report by Warren Thompson in full at BL Premium (paywall access)


DISCRIMINATION / RACISM / SEXISM / HATE SPEECH

ConCourt rules ‘Hit the Boer’ singers shouldn’t have been fired

The Citizen reports that the Constitutional Court (ConCourt) has ordered the reinstatement of nine Duncanmec workers after they were dismissed for singing struggle songs referring to “Boers” during a strike that was found to be reasonable.  Duncanmec (Pty) Ltd took the matter to the ConCourt after the CCMA and the Labour Court ruled in favour of the dismissed workers.  The affected employees were represented by the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa).  The court on Thursday handed down a judgment that overturned the decision by Duncanmec to dismiss nine employees for singing a struggle song with racial lyrics.  In 2013, Duncanmec employees participated in a short unprotected strike.  Nine employees were filmed dancing and singing a well-known struggle song with lyrics that translate to “climb on the rooftop and shout that my mother is rejoicing when we hit the Boers”.  The employees were found guilty of participating in an unlawful strike and singing a racially offensive song.  They were given a final warning for the first offence and dismissed for the second.  But, the CCMA ordered their reinstatement.  The Labour Court concurred, noting that the song was not clearly prohibited in terms of a workplace rule and that it was part of the history and struggle for workers’ rights.  The ConCourt held that the use of the word Boer on its own was not a racist or a racially offensive word, but added that the use of the word in a song by employees was inappropriate.

Read this report by Gopolang Chawane in full at The Citizen. Read too, Word 'boer' not racist or racially offensive, ConCourt rules, at News24. And also, ‘Hit the boer’ song not racially offensive‚ rules ConCourt, at SowetanLive

Cape Town trade unionist Tony Ehrenreich found guilty by SAHRC of hate speech

Timeslive reports that the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) has ordered labour federation Cosatu's former Western Cape leader Tony Ehrenreich to apologise in writing for offensive comments he made on social media.  He was found to have committed hate speech and must apologise to the SA Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) within one month.  The written statement must also affirm his commitment to constitutional values.  The commission’s ruling relates to a social media post published in August 2014.  It found that the post advocated unfair discrimination against the SAJBD.  "The commission is of the view that the post in question can be reasonably construed to demonstrate a clear intention to promote hatred of the members of the [SAJBD]‚ as is prohibited by Section 10 of the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act. Here the commission found that the [social media post] amounted to hate speech‚" the SAHRC ruled.  Another statement by Ehrenreich‚ objected to by another party‚ was found not to amount to hate speech.

This short report is at Timeslive


COMMUTING / TRANSPORT TO WORK

Prasa commits to paying its R16m share for special Western Cape Rail Enforcement Unit

News24Wire reports that the Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa) says it is fully committed to its part in the establishment of a special Rail Enforcement Unit, pledging to pay its R16m contribution towards the deployment of an additional 100 officers.  The rail agency's contribution, which it reaffirmed at a meeting on Wednesday, is part of a joint venture between it, the City of Cape Town and the Western Cape government, for a pilot project in terms of which the unit is to be set up.  Prasa’s announcement came after Mayoral Committee Member for Transport and Urban Development Brett Herron blasted the rail agency for failing to pay its R16-million contribution.  "Prasa is committed to working with all the parties involved in the proposed pilot project.  The matter regarding the outstanding payment of the Prasa contribution to the pilot project will now be escalated to the Prasa board," acting CEO Martha Ngoye said.  In May 2018, all three parties signed a memorandum of agreement, agreeing to the establishment of the unit.  However, Herron claimed that despite numerous reminders to Prasa executives, its contribution was never paid over.  Meanwhile, on Saturday Herron wrote an urgent letter to Nzimande requesting him to declare a state emergency over the state of the railway system, after an attack between Lynedoch and Eerste River the previous day.

Read this report in full at Engineering News

 


Get other news reports at the SA Labour News home page