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, 21 September 2018.


TOP STORY – TRANSPORT TROUBLES

KZN, Cape Town bracing for transport troubles on Tuesday

News24 reports that KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) and Cape Town residents are expected to experience transport troubles on Tuesday morning.  The Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa) has indefinitely suspended all its operations in KZN following last Friday's torching of cars and vandalism of its property in Umlazi, south of Durban.  Thousands of train commuters are expected to be left stranded as there will be no trains in the entire province on Tuesday, Prasa KZN spokesperson Zama Nomnganga confirmed.  Meanwhile, working class communities across Cape Town are expected to take to the streets on Tuesday morning as part of a movement called the Western Cape Total Shutdown.  They will be protesting against poverty, crime and unemployment.  Organiser Gatto Wanza said residents would gather and protest on streets leading to highways between 05:00 and 10:00.  The roads expected to be affected will feed into the N2, M5 and M7 traffic.  Mayoral committee member JP Smith said any blocking of roads would not be allowed and would be treated as illegal.

Read this report by Mxolisi Mngadi in full at News24

Metrorail operations in KZN won’t resume until it is safe to do so, says Prasa

EWN reports that the Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa) in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) has said that operations in the province would not resume until it was safe to do so.  According to Prasa, it has been forced to shut down all Metrorail services due to vandalism.  The agency also indicated that it will have to fork out over R8 million after the Umlazi train station was vandalised by angry commuters and four cars were torched on Friday morning.  Provincial spokesperson Zama Nomganga said:  “There’s an element of criminality, vandalism, theft, train hijacking, and our crew getting assaulted.  Until the Friday incident, we almost lost about 12 lives at the Umlazi station.”  Meanwhile, the United National Transport Union (Untu) has called on the police minister to prioritise the volatile situation.  The union said it supported Prasa’s decision to shut down all Metrorail services for the safety of its members who have been victimised.

Read this report by Bonga Dlulane in full at EWN. Read too, Prasa 'indefinitely' suspends trains in KZN, at News24

Commuters’ anger at lack of alternative transport led to rampage at Umlazi train station

News24 reports that train commuters who went on the rampage in Umlazi, south of Durban, after trains arrived late on Friday morning were angry because they had not been provided with alternative transport.  According to a local resident, Linda Khumalo, four cars had already been torched when he arrived at the scene.  "I gathered from the scene that the commuters became angry when the trains did not arrive on time and they had not been provided with alternative transport," Khumalo indicated.  Their complaint had been that they had to pay for minibus taxis to take them to work even though they had purchased tickets for the whole week.  Another resident, Armstrong Khuzwayo, said the situation flared up when a security guard started shooting as commuters were complaining.  "The people became violent and started burning cars," he claimed.  Police spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Thulani Zwane confirmed that the train commuters set four cars alight and damaged a ticket office and a motor train coach.  He said the incident occurred just after 06:00 and extensive damage had been caused to the train station when more than 1,000 commuters at Umlazi railway station became angry about late trains.  The Public Order Police Unit and eThekwini Metro Police were summoned to monitor the situation.

Read this report by Mxolisi Mngadi in full at News24


OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH & SAFETY

PSA takes government departments to Labour Court over 'unsafe' Civitas building in Pretoria

News24 reports that the Public Servants Association (PSA) has taken its fight with two national departments over the occupation of the Civitas Building in Pretoria to the Labour Court in Johannesburg.  "The PSA took national health and public works to the Labour Court arguing that workers cannot continue to work in an unsafe working environment and the building must be shut down," the union’s Ivan Fredericks said in a statement of Friday.  The PSA believes that the Civitas Building, which is occupied by employees of the national health department, is in contravention of the Occupational Health and Safety Act and, as a result, made an application seeking an order that would direct the two departments to "move employees to an environment that is safe and without risk to the health of its employees".  The presiding judge questioned whether the labour court had jurisdiction over the case and postponed the matter until 11 October when the parties will address the question.  The safety of buildings in Gauteng has been a matter of general concern following the tragic deaths of three firefighters earlier this month following a fire at the Bank of Lisbon Building in Johannesburg.

Read this report by Canny Maphanga in full at News24. Read the PSA’s press statement in this regard at SA Labour News

Civitas building in Pretoria ‘safe’ for workers, says health department

EWN reports that the national Department of Health says there is no reason to believe the Civitas Building in Pretoria is unsafe for workers.  Employees affiliated to the Public Servants Association (PSA) have refused to occupy that building, claiming that it meets just 20% of the necessary safety regulations.  Many of them have since resorted to working outside the building on the corners of Andries and Struben Streets while the matter is being heard in the Labour Court.  However, the department's Popo Maja insists the building is safe.  “The matter is before the courts and we are waiting for the courts to guide us.  From our view, the building has never ever been declared inhabitable, it has never been condemned, and we are happy that the matter is before the courts so that the courts can guide us.”  The safety of government buildings has come into sharp focus over the past few weeks after the Lisbon Bank Building caught fire in the Johannesburg city centre claiming the lives of three firefighters.

This short report by Kgomotso Modise is at EWN

Car ploughs into three medics at Mpumalanga accident scene

News24 reports that three medics were knocked down by a car while they were assisting at the scene of an earlier accident on the R546 in Mpumalanga on Saturday night.  ER24 spokesperson Ineke van Huyssteen said in a statement on Sunday that one of the medics was in a critical condition and had had to be airlifted to hospital, while the other two sustained moderate injuries.  The incident involved members of the ER24 Secunda team.  The circumstance of the collision are not yet clear.

A short report is at News24

Parliament must carry the can for ‘protest’ suicide of employee

City Press reports that former and current employees of Parliament have called on the House to be held accountable for a tragic “protest” suicide, instead of shifting the blame on to the police.  The employees, angered at the tragic death of Lennox Garane, claim that Parliament has been disingenuous by turning the tragedy into an issue of security, instead of a labour relations issue.  Garane, who had been a section manager for policy in the international relations and protocol division of Parliament, shot himself in his office last Friday.  At a memorial service last week, his brother, Sithembiso Garane, revealed that the deceased had left behind a dossier documenting how toxic his work space had become, along with a letter addressed to his wife.  “I am sorry, I could not take it anymore, this is a protest suicide against gross unfairness,” the letter read.  Deputy Speaker Lechesa Tsenoli apologised to Garane’s family last week, saying Parliament could have handled the matter differently.  He said plans were under way to institute an inquiry into what led to the protest suicide.  Current and former employees painted a bleak picture of working conditions at Parliament, saying the silence from labour committees was deafening.

Read this report by S’Thembile Cele in full at News24

Other internet posting(s) in this news category

  • 'Always remember these fine men' – munitions blast families, friends mourn, at News24
  • Pupil assaults and pours water over teacher, on page 17 of Sowetan of 21 September 2018


MINING LABOUR

NUM signs wage deal with AngloGold Ashanti

Reuters reports that the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) signed a three-year wage deal with AngloGold Ashanti on Friday, inking the same agreement that other unions reached with the gold producer earlier in the week.  The three other unions were the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu), Solidarity and Uasa.  The agreement will mean an effective pay hike of over 12% for entry-level underground workers in the first year, over double the inflation rate, an industry trend in recent years that has hit margins and has made many shafts unprofitable.  Gold producers have argued that above-inflation wage hikes have added to the cost burden in the bullion industry, which has also been hit by depressed prices, labour unrest and declining grades at depths of up to 4 kms.  Harmony Gold, Sibanye-Stillwater and smaller producer Village Main Reef have yet to sign wage agreements with the unions.

This short report by Ed Stoddard is at Moneyweb

Other labour / community posting(s) relating to mining

Postings on mining charter / transformation


UNION NEWS / STRUCTURES / ORGANISATIONAL REPORTS

Cosatu hits a serious cash crunch

City Press reports that the 1.6 million-strong Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) is in serious financial trouble.  The federation’s latest financial report received an “adverse finding” from external auditors for possibly containing material misstatements.  Cosatu had qualified audits in 2015 and 2016, but this is the first time it got the more severe “adverse” warning from auditors Deloitte.  The finance report tabled at last week’s 13th national congress was deceptively rosy, showing an unusual R16m surplus following a loss in 2015 and break even in 2016.  In reality, Cosatu’s finances were saved last year by two special windfalls that disguised the increasingly dire state of affairs at its affiliate unions.  One windfall was the write-off of more than R11m in unpaid rent Cosatu owed for its headquarters in Johannesburg.  The second windfall was an unprecedented dividend from Cosatu investment company Kopano Ke Matla totalling R9m.  Exceptional income in the year also included a capacity-building grant from the National Skills Fund of R4.15m.  Excluding these special items, the actual fees received from affiliated unions fell slightly in the year and did not cover expenses.  Despite raising the fee per member, Cosatu received affiliate fees of R73.9m last year, compared with R74.6m in 2016, due to falling membership.  Non-payment of fees by affiliate unions has become a crisis.  The financial report tabled this week revealed that Cosatu has made provision for R34.6m in fees owed to it as “doubtful debts”.  A year earlier, this amount was R13m.

Read this report by Dewald van Rensburg in full at Fin24

It's not about me, says Cosatu’s Zingiswa Losi

City Press reports that Zingiswa Losi, newly elected president of Cosatu, advises never to take things personally in any organisation, because when they have been addressed and dealt with, “you still have to lead those who were raising the issues.”  She observes:  “I have learnt to separate myself as Zingiswa from the position that I occupy.  If I fail to do that, emotions will come in, because Zingiswa will not understand that the issues are about the office and not about her as an individual.”  There is a painful background story to her sentiments.  She had a bruising experience in 2013 with her then union, Numsa, when she was suspended by her Eastern Cape home region over charges of bringing the union into disrepute.  In the end she resigned from her position at a local Ford plant and found refuge in Popcru to avoid losing her position as Cosatu’s second deputy president.  Losi had been a former soldier in the SANDF before joining Ford in 2002.  Losi says she appreciates the Numsa experience because “if you focus on emotions, you are easily dislodged without really understanding the reasons behind some of the questions that are being asked.  Had I addressed it differently, I would have burnt many bridges.  But now I’m able to meet my former comrades and we greet, we smile and we hug.  The road ahead may not be without new potholes for Losi.  Among her first tasks will be to persuade the ANC to listen and respond to the workers’ concerns by agreeing to the reconfiguration of the alliance so that all partners have an equal say in the running of government.

Read this report by Setumo Stone in full at News24. Read too, Zingiswa Losi: woman’s rise from humiliation to triumph will lift workers, at BusinessLive. And also, Now is the time to rise, Cosatu president Zingiswa Losi tells affiliates, at News24

Other internet posting(s) in this news category

  • Change, or SACP gets our vote, says Cosatu, on page 3 of The Citizen of 21 September 2018
  • Cosatu wants equal powers for alliance, on page 4 of Sowetan of 21 September 2018


RETIREMENT FUNDS

Whistle-blower Rosemary Hunter loses dormant pension funds battle

BusinessLive reports that whistle-blower turned activist Rosemary Hunter has lost her legal battle to force the pension funds’ watchdog to do more work investigating the closure of dormant pension funds.  The case relates to a project by the then Financial Services Board (FSB), which saw the cancellation of more than 4,600 dormant retirement funds between January 2007 and December 2013 and the transfer of all their assets to unclaimed benefits funds.  In September 2017, the Financial Services Sector Authority (FSCA) indicated that there were R42bn unclaimed benefits in SA.  These funds are administered by various private and public sector funds.  Hunter approached the Constitutional Court for leave to appeal earlier judgments made by the High Court in Pretoria and the Supreme Court of Appeal in a bid to compel the FSCA to do more investigations into the funds cancellation project.  Five of the eight judges ruled against her on the basis that the FSCA had conducted enough investigations.  The three other judges disagreed, saying:  "There were many mistakes made in the course of the project.  There are potentially hundreds of errors that will go undetected without further investigation."  Pressured by noise created by Hunter’s case, financial services group Liberty in August ordered the reinstatement of 130 funds, which had about R100m in assets and 3,000 beneficiaries when they were cancelled.  "That’s just the tip of the iceberg.  I’m sure there are many other hundreds of millions [of unclaimed funds] there," Hunter said.

Read this report by Londiwe Buthelezi in full at BusinessLive. Read too, FSB whistleblower’s legal challenge hits the end of the road, at Moneyweb

Sea Point security company in court over nonpayment of provident fund contributions

GroundUp reports that the Western Cape High Court has given the owners of a Sea Point security company until 2 October to defend themselves against allegations that the company failed to pay contributions to its workers' provident fund for several years.  The Private Sector Security Provident Fund brought an application to compel Proexec Security Network and its owner, Geoffrey Levy, to pay outstanding contributions as well as the interest fees incurred by the late payments.  Until about September 2017, Proexec employed over 200 guards at buildings and apartment blocks in the Sea Point area.  According to the fund, the company failed to pay its contributions and late payment interest fees between April 2005 and September 2017.  In an affidavit filed by David Bhekumuzi Sangweni, the principal officer of the fund, he indicated that the application was to obtain an order directing Proexec and Levy to "pay over pension fund contributions of Proexec's employees which it ought to have paid on a monthly basis as stipulated by legislation".  Should the fund's application be granted in its current form, Levy would be ordered to backpay the contributions within 15 business days.  The fund also wants Levy to pay the cost of the application.  Judge Kate Savage ordered Levy to file a detailed affidavit by 28 September, responding to each of the allegations made.

Read this report by Barbara Maregele in full at GroundUp


MEDICAL SCHEMES / NATIONAL HEALTH INSURANCE

Council for Medical Schemes proposes consolidation into GEMS of all schemes for public servants

BusinessLive reports that the Council for Medical Schemes (CMS) has proposed consolidation of all medical schemes for public servants into the Government Employees Medical Scheme (Gems) in line with government policy on National Health Insurance.  The proposal is contained in a discussion document released for public comment on Wednesday and is likely to run into opposition from industry players and public servants alike.  The state contributes significantly to public servants’ medical scheme contributions.  It is said that unionised workers are likely to resist moves they see as a threat to their current benefits.  The CMS identified 10 schemes that could be amalgamated with GEMS, including those of state-affiliated entities such as the SABC and Rand Water.  It said that consolidating public sector medical schemes with GEMS offered potential savings - a larger scheme would have more negotiating power with health-care providers.  Wits University professor Alex van den Heever panned the council’s latest proposals, saying they were at odds with the health market inquiry’s interim findings, published in July.

Read this report by Tamar Kahn in full at BusinessLive


DISMISSALS / SUSPENSIONS

Hlaudi Motsoeneng loses CCMA bid to regain his job at the SABC

BusinessLive reports that former SA Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) Chief Operating officer (COO) Hlaudi Motsoeneng has lost his bid to regain his job at the public broadcaster.  The Commission for Conciliation‚ Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) on Thursday dismissed Motsoeneng’s bid to challenge his dismissal.  He was sacked by the public broadcaster in June 2017 after he was found guilty of bringing the SABC into disrepute during a controversial media conference which he had called.  SABC spokesperson Neo Momodu Thursday evening welcomed the CCMA’s decision and said:  “The decision vindicates the SABC’s processes as procedurally and substantively fair.”  During the CCMA proceedings, which commenced earlier in 2018, the SABC argued that Motsoeneng had used the press conference to inflate his ego and his statements had undermined his relationship with the SABC.  The broadcaster also contended that Motsoeneng was not qualified to hold any position at the corporation, and even if the courts were to rule that he be reinstated‚ he would not meet the minimum requirements.

Read this report by Bekezela Phakathi in full at BusinessLive

Following CCMA defeat, Motsoeneng thinks about heading to labour court to get SABC job back

News24 reports that the next step for axed SA Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng in his battle to get back his job could be the Labour Court.  The broadcaster's former boss said he was considering going to the Labour Court to have his dismissal reviewed after he lost his bid to get back his job at the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) on Thursday.  Motsoeneng was dismissed in 2017 after he was found to have brought the public broadcaster into disrepute during a media conference which he had called.  Speaking after the ruling, Motsoeneng said he still believed that he was the "best" person who had run the state broadcaster and went on to state:  "I believe that I have performed a wonderful job at the SABC and was actually on my way to ensure that the SABC was a well-transformed machine, but unfortunately could not fulfil those dreams."  The SABC welcomed the CCMA's decision, saying it vindicated the broadcaster's processes as "procedurally and substantively fair".

Read this report by Sesona Ngqakamba in full at News24


SEXUAL HARASSMENT / ABUSE

Top Wits professor Ivor Chipkin resigns after being embroiled in sex scandal

Saturday Star reports that a well-known academic, media commentator and head of a government watchdog has resigned in the wake of a series of sexual harassment allegations against him.  Professor Ivor Chipkin, who had been executive director of the Public Affairs Research Institute (Pari), tendered his resignation on 6 September, with the board of the organisation accepting it with immediate effect five days later.  The resignation apparently came shortly before a disciplinary process into Chipkin’s alleged misconduct was set to take place.  His departure from Pari came after an extensive probe by Wits University’s gender equity office (GEO) into his alleged inappropriate conduct.  On Thursday, Pari’s interim executive director Mbongiseni Buthelezi indicated that the allegations had been registered from multiple complainants in June this year.  Buthelezi said they immediately placed Chipkin on special leave and brought in the GEO as “independent, impartial” investigators.  The GEO report was finalised last month, apparently with the recommendation that a disciplinary hearing should take place.  Meanwhile, Chipkin claimed the investigation process was mismanaged.  He observed:  “Three months after the allegations had surfaced, in the absence of any formal charges or a stated way forward from the board, and with a final report from the GEO that had not reflected my contribution, I felt it most prudent to resolve the process by tendering my resignation.”

Read more of this Saturday Star report by Shain Germaner at SA Labour News


NEWS BRIEFS

  • Investment in skills must be a priority, says Bridgestone SA chief, at BusinessLive
  • Three Bela-Bela police officers arrested for alleged corruption, armed robbery, at News24

 


Get other news reports at the SA Labour News home page