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, 9 October 2018.


OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH & SAFETY

Case to prevent firing of employees who won’t return to 'death trap' Poyntons building postponed

News24 reports that the court application lodged by 21 Department of Correctional Services (DCS) employees, who want to stop the department from firing them for refusing to return to their offices at the Poyntons Building in Pretoria, was postponed on Monday.  The employees, who belong to the Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (Popcru), have refused to return to the 32-storey building after it was declared a fire hazard and evacuated last month.  Even though the building was subsequently cleared for use, the Popcru members claim it is still too dangerous to enter and have asked to be allowed to work at another location.  They claim in court papers that the building is a death trap.  On Monday, the case was postponed until 12 October, when the court will decide whether the Labour Court has jurisdiction to hear the matter.  The DCS has argued that it does not.  The merits of the case have not yet been heard, pending a ruling on the jurisdiction issue.  In its court papers, the DCS said that the building was "relatively safe", although there might be "insignificant risks" that were "well mitigated".  The DCS also pointed out that everyone working in the building, except the 21 Popcru members, have returned to work, including more than 1,000 DCS employees, between 400 and 700 SA National Defence Force workers and 40 employees from the Auditor-General's office.

Read this report by Sarah Evans in full at News24


MINING LABOUR

Industry veterans outline bleak outlook for SA’s gold and platinum deep-level mines and jobs

BusinessLive reports that in unusually frank comments from gold and platinum mining CEOs at the Joburg Indaba mining conference, the future of those sectors was mapped out in just a few minutes, with bleak consequences for their workforces.  Industry veterans and top CEOs, Nico Muller (Implats) and Peter Steenkamp (Harmony Gold) outlined a future without new deep-level, conventionally operated, labour-intensive mines.  Muller and Steenkamp were unflinching in their appraisal of their respective sectors, either ruling out any new deep-level shafts in platinum or calling the end of SA’s once world-dominant gold sector — with just a tiny handful of mines still operating in a decade.  Employment in the gold sector dived to 112,000 last year from nearly 400,000 jobs in 1994 as production plunged from 583 tons over the same period to 138 tons.  The number of jobs could fall below 50,000 if there are just a few big gold mines left in a decade.  The single most crippling factor for SA’s deep-level mines in gold and platinum has been runaway cost increases, well ahead of inflation, which have eroded profit margins and forced hefty restructuring at mines in both commodities in recent years.  It is said to be much more difficult to extrapolate what the slowing of deep-level mine investment would have on employment in platinum, especially if companies actively chase and develop shallow, mechanised mines in SA and Zimbabwe.

Read this report by Allan Seccombe in full at BusinessLive

Pressures of history, race and radical thought were balanced in Mining Charter, says Gideon du Plessis

Gideon du Plessis, general secretary of Solidarity, writes that despite the diverse opinions, the Mining Charter 3 reflects a picture that goes beyond its contents.  Five elements highlight its background, complexity and value, and explain this wider reach.  Firstly, questions are raised about the obsession there is with the charter, which go back to mining’s prominent past as an economic activity and to the fact that minerals symbolise wealth.  As noted by Sandile Nogxina, former DG of the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR), pollution, mining fatalities, the creation of a destructive migrant worker system and the concomitant under-development of rural areas as a side effect can be attributed to mining.  Yet, the Freedom Charter sets out that the minerals beneath the soil must be used to the advantage of all South Africans.  This explains why the charter has to connect social and economic issues, thus aiming to regulate social justice.  Secondly, former mines minister Mosebenzi Zwane’s radical draft Mining Charter made it difficult for stakeholders to reach consensus on new content.  Thirdly, the charter had to be a balancing act of race, for while it has to promote black economic empowerment, it is also committed to a non-racial mining sector which excludes no one because of race.  Fourthly, the increased financial burden the charter puts on mining companies had to be presented as an “investment” that creates sustainability of mining communities brought about by stability in labour relations.  Finally, the past seven months’ negotiations have restored social cohesion between the government, the Minerals Council SA, trade unions, and mining communities too.  Du Plessis concludes that the end result is that, “notwithstanding profound differences, stakeholders are once again aware of each other’s views and concerns, and have learnt to listen to each other. The process has also brought rivalling mining trade unions closer together.”

Read this article in full at Miningmx

Other general posting(s) relating to mining

  • Ghosts of the Guptas still haunt Optimum coal mine, at Moneyweb


INDUSTRIAL ACTION / STRIKES / LOCK-OUTS

Numsa goes on strike over transformation at Toyota SA’s KZN plant

ANA reports that workers affiliated to the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) have gone on strike at Toyota as a result of an impasse over transformation in the car manufacturer’s plant in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN).  Regional secretary Mbuso Ngubane accused the management team of stubbornly refusing to engage with their demands.  He claimed that Toyota had not taken any practical steps to open up the space so that black companies could participate fairly in the procurement process.  “Toyota is an untransformed company which routinely fails BBBEE compliance targets.  They also repeatedly fail to meet their own Employment Equity targets.  This is because there is no political will from the management team to genuinely address these issues,” Ngubane said.  He indicated that Numsa was demanding the establishment of a transformation committee which would oversee and participate in the recruitment and procurement process, the upholding of the independence of the chairperson in disciplinary processes, and a raft of other demands.  The strike, which began on Monday morning, is set to affect all Toyota plants across the country.

Read this report in full at The Citizen. Read too, Numsa members embark on strike at Toyota, at Engineering News

Nehawu in court action to stop Sassa switching to new biometric system and to also strike

Business Day reports that the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) intends to apply for a court interdict barring the use of a biometric system to enrol SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) beneficiaries.  This follows Nehawu’s announcement that it would go on strike at the agency on Wednesday over Sassa’s unilateral implementation of the new system, which the union said was detrimental to the country’s 17-million grant recipients.  Nehawu claimed that the agency and the social development department had failed to engage extensively on the functions of workers during the migration to and the use of the biometric enrolment and payment of beneficiaries.  Nehawu’s Zola Saphetha commented:  “Biometric enrolment is not part of the job description of workers, hence workers don’t get remunerated for performing it, nor is it part of the Sassa grant administration business process. In rural areas, there is a huge shortage of the biometric enrolment equipment, leading to delays in the servicing of beneficiaries.”  The union also said the new social pension system (Socpen) had been misrepresented to workers as a means to improve the security of social pensions.  “Workers continue to access Socpen the very same way they did before and it is still a very vulnerable system to fraud and hackers,” Saphetha claimed.

Read the report by Theto Mahlakoana in full on page 2 of Business Day of 9 October 2018. Read too, Nehawu mobilising for ‘full-blown national Sassa strike’, at The Citizen


PROTESTS / MARCHES / CAMPAIGNS

Wage-related protest by workers shuts down R511 west of Pretoria on Tuesday

The Citizen reports that motorists were warned on Tuesday morning to stay off the R511, west of Pretoria leading to Hartbeespoort, following a protest by a group of employees from RCL food company.  Police spokesperson Constable Tumisang Moloto said the employees had barricaded the road with rocks and burning tyres.  He added:  “Allegations suggests that this incident is the result of a wage dispute between the company and the unions.  Public order police unit is on scene monitoring the situation and also working closely with other law enforcement agencies to open the road for free flow of traffic.”  Moloto also indicated that the situation was under control and no one had been arrested.

This short report by Eliot Mahlase is at The Citizen


LABOUR MARKET / JOB CREATION

Government foresees upcoming period of huge employment creation

BusinessLive reports that by government projections, in two years’ time the South African economy will create 825,000 direct and indirect jobs annually.  Trade and industry minister Rob Davies indicated that the estimates were based on interventions devised by labour, business and government in the agreement at the Jobs Summit last week.  President Cyril Ramaphosa also announced that the impact of the sectoral interventions for job creation and economic enablers for sector growth would lead to 275,000 direct new jobs in addition to the targeted 300,000 a year.  The summit announced more than 70 interventions focused on local procurement, industrial finance and growth of SA exports in a bid to create jobs.  In a presentation on sectoral interventions creating employment at the summit, Davies stated:  "Based on a very conservative multiplier of two indirect jobs for every one direct job, we calculate that 550,000 indirect jobs will be created".  He explained that estimates were based on the number of jobs that would be created by each intervention contained in the agreement.  But Davies conceded that these numbers were still below that of new entrants to the labour market, which is why unemployment remained stubborn.  

Read this report by Theto Mahlakoana in full at BusinessLive

Other internet posting(s) in this news category

  • Jobs Summit: The unemployed need jobs, not promises, at Fin24


WORKPLACE CONDITIONS

Working conditions in public service come under scrutiny after suicide of parliamentary staffer

BusinessLive reports that working conditions in the public service have recently come under sharp scrutiny after a senior staffer in parliament committed suicide in protest against alleged bullying by an ANC MP.  Lennox Garane shot himself on 14 September and in a suicide note wrote that it was in protest against 20 months of bullying.  Moreover, there is mounting speculation that the government will soon embark on wholesale retrenchments as it moves to prevent its wage bill from spiralling out of control, causing anxiety among its employees.  The government is the largest employer in SA.  The 2018 budget review noted that, for the state to support higher levels of capital investment, it "needs to contain the public-service wage bill, which has crowded out spending in other areas".  According to Vinothan Naidoo of UCT, another issue which a lot of people have been concerned about was “political interference in public-sector appointments, which has eroded trust and credibility in, and stunted the growth of, a professional bureaucracy where skills are taken seriously."  Prof Piet Naudé of Stellenbosch University said that if downsizing did not happen any time soon, the aim should be to professionalise the public service, which would entail “a proper and independent evaluation of how people match the qualifications required for their job function, as well as a process analysis of whether all jobs are in fact productive and required."

Read this report by Bekezela Phakathi in full at BusinessLive. See too, Call for Cabinet to be downsized, at The Citizen


RETRENCHMENTS / VOLUNTARY SEVERANCE PACKAGES

Denel proposing voluntary severance packages, salary cuts, says Solidarity

Reuters reports that state arms manufacturer Denel is holding talks with unions over voluntary severance packages, reduced working hours and salary cuts for some staff as it struggles to emerge from a financial crisis.  Johan Botha, deputy general secretary of Solidarity, said Denel management had told union officials on Monday that staff salary payments for October and beyond were at risk because of the severe liquidity woes the company was facing.  It was reported last month that Denel had not paid managers and specialists their full salaries in September because of a lack of liquidity.  Botha said that regular staff - not just managers and specialists - would be affected by the proposed severance packages, reduced working hours and salary cuts.  “Innocent employees will now have to account for earlier mismanagement, which is still under investigation.  There is no clear indication that a strategic plan for Denel is forthcoming,” said Botha.  In April, President Cyril Ramaphosa oversaw the appointment of a new board at Denel.  The firm was embroiled in corruption allegations under its previous management.

Read this report in full at Business Report. Read Solidarity’s press release in this regard at Solidarity News


SKILLS DEVELOPMENT / TRAINING

TVET colleges key ‘to building skills’, says Pandor at launch of centre for artisan skills

Pretoria News reports that Higher Education and Training Minister Naledi Pandor regards Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges as the new hope in South Africa.  She was speaking on Monday during the soft launch of the Gandhi-Mandela Centre of Specialisation for Artisan Skills at the Tshwane South TVET College.  This came three months after South Africa and India signed a memorandum of understanding to co-operate with one another in setting up the centre, which is designed to be a further step in promoting quality vocational education and training for young people, as well as meeting the need for artisan skills in the country.  Pandor said she regarded TVET colleges as extremely important tool in the fight against poverty.  “For me, the TVET colleges are the hope in South Africa and I’m very serious about them becoming part of the critical edge of skills development in the country.”  Indian High Commissioner to SA, Ruchira Kamboj, pointed out that the project was named after two immortal personalities who linked the two countries.  Specialisation at the college will be imparted in four areas: electrician, boilermaker, mechanical fitter and millwright.

Read this report by Virgilatte Gwangwa in full at Pretoria News


SEXUAL ABUSE / HARASSMENT

Male lecturer at Sol Plaatje University accuses senior academic of touching his genitals

Diamond Fields Advertiser reports that the Kimberley police are investigating a case of sexual assault after a lecturer at Sol Plaatje University (SPU) accused a senior academic of touching his genitals.  While neither the university nor the police were willing to go into the specifics of the incident, it is apparently alleged by the married, male complainant that the academic, who is the head of one of the schools at the university, touched him inappropriately during a visit to his office on 27 August.  This resulted in criminal charges being opened after the complainant reported the matter to the police last Tuesday.  A police spokesperson confirmed that a criminal investigation was under way, but was unwilling to divulge any further information.  SPU Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Professor Yunus Ballim, said that management at the university was aware of the allegations of sexual misconduct as these had already been subject to an internal investigation.  “We are now at a stage where the two parties have agreed to a process for further assessment of the allegations,” he indicated.  He added that the first two meetings of this process had had to be postponed because the complainant was off ill and under medical care.

Read this report by Murray Swart in full at IOL News

Eastern Cape teachers suspended over sex-for-marks scandal

SABC News reports that the Eastern Cape Department of Education has placed four provisional teachers and an administrator at St Matthews High School in Keiskammahoek to take over from suspended teachers implicated in a sex-for-marks scandal.  The suspended male teachers have been accused of demanding sex from girls in exchange for good marks and promotion to the next grade.  Director for school administration, Melikhaya Mancoko, said the situation at St Matthews was under control and that the replacement teachers were already in the classrooms to make sure that teaching and learning resumed with speed.  Mancoko added that investigations into the allegations of sexual assault were at an advanced stage:  “The labour relations, the risk management and legal services they are the ones driving this investigation, they are giving it the sensitivity it deserves, they promised that within 14 days we will be receiving a preliminary report regarding this.”

This short report is at SABC News


COMMUTING / TRANSPORT TO WORK

Prasa's train control vacancies risk commuters’ lives

SowetanLive writes that the lives of about two million train commuters around the country are being put at risk by staff shortages in key positions at the Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa).  The Railway Safety Regulator (RSR) said on Monday that Prasa's failure to fill vacant positions of train control section managers was mainly to blame for a series of train accidents over the past few months.  It is seeking to ground all trains due to safety concerns.  Train control officers are supposed to have a section manager to verify and supervise all their calls.  The RSR’s Madelein Williams said on Monday that it was one of the "special conditions" imposed when they issued a one-year safety permit to Prasa last month.  Williams indicated:  "Prasa has failed to appoint section managers to ensure there's countersigning when manual train authorisations were issued and this led to last week's accident (at Kempton Park station).  Due to non-filling of safety-critical positions, they [Prasa] couldn't ensure that they provided a second line of checking during manual train authorisations."  Williams said Prasa had relied on manual authorisations, which were also worryingly growing in number, without supervisors.  More than 1,200 commuters suffered injuries while 24 lost their lives in five train accidents since January - all happening during manual train authorisations.  Prasa has approached the High Court in an effort to get an urgent court order preventing the RSR from suspending its safety permit and grounding all passenger trains.  Meanwhile, transport minister Blade Nzimande called a meeting for Tuesday with the chairs of the RSR and Prasa boards in an effort to avert a court showdown scheduled for Thursday.

Read this report by Isaac Mahlangu in full at SowetanLive. Read too, Prasa gets regulator red card, at BusinessLive

Firefighters quell fresh blaze at Cape Town train station on Tuesday

News24 reports that firefighters arrived at Cape Town train station on Tuesday to battle yet another train-related blaze after thick, black smoke permeated the air above the station.  The City of Cape Town's Fire and Rescue Service responded to the train fire at approximately 12:20.  According to the rescue service, "two trains with three carriages each on platform 17 and 18 respectively were alight", with reports of the offices above the station deck also being affected.  Four fire engines, a water tanker and a rescue vehicle with 24 firefighters responded to the blaze and investigators were on the scene trying to determine the cause.  Dan Plato‚ Western Cape community safety MEC‚ said the repeated arson attacks on Cape Town’s commuter trains were intolerable.  “We need answers from military intelligence‚ from police intelligence‚ I think the police owe us the answers‚” he stated.

A short report is at News24. Read too, Not again! Cape Town's cry of despair as more trains are torched, at TimesLive

Other internet posting(s) in this news category

  • Arson attacks on Metrorail costs SA almost R700 million, at Business Report
  • Prasa commits to Cape Metrorail turnaround strategy, at SABC News


NEWS BRIEFS

  • Eskom’s Johnny Dladla resigns to pursue private business interests, at Fin24
  • Stats SA to conduct census of commercial agriculture, at BusinessLive

 


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