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, 18 January 2019.


OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH & SAFETY

Department of Labour launches formal inquiry into deadly 2018 roof collapse at KZN building

Engineering News reports that the Department of Labour (DoL) has set up a formal inquiry into the collapse of a structure that was under construction last year on the premises of Imperial Logistics, in Durban.  The collapse led to the death of four employees and the injury of four others.  On 28 March 2018, a precast roofing company was busy installing concrete precast roof slabs, when the structure collapsed.  The collapse caused structural damages to an adjacent building and a heavy-duty vehicle that was stationary on the public road along the perimeter fence of the premises.  Subsequently, DoL inspectors issued a prohibition notice to Imperial Logistics, stopping any further work from being undertaken until the circumstances and cause surrounding the collapse were investigated.  The first session of the inquiry will be held from 21 January to 1 February 1 at the KwaZulu-Natal Master Builders Association’s offices.  The inquiry, initiated by DoL chief inspector Tibor Szana, will investigate levels of adherence to occupational health and safety (OHS) standards and negligence that could have caused injuries and the death of employees.

Read a short report on this story at Engineering News

Deadly Bank of Lisbon building set to be demolished

ANA reports that preparations to demolish the Bank of Lisbon building in Johannesburg, which was engulfed in flames in September leading to the deaths of three firemen, were under way on Thursday.  Workers from Jet Demolition were seen inside the government building conducting an assessment.  Kenton Kahn from Jet Demolition’s safety department said all the surrounding buildings would be notified of the date of the actual demolition.  “We are still doing the preparations.  The staff’s belongings that were inside still need to be removed, so it might take place between April and June,” Kahn indicated.  Spokesperson for Johannesburg Emergency Management Services Robert Mulaudzi said investigations into the cause of the fire were near completion.

This short report is at The Mercury


MINING LABOUR

Tensions between Sibanye-Stillwater and Amcu rise as secondary strike at company’s platinum mines looms

City Press reports that the standoff between Sibanye-Stillwater and the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) appears nowhere near to being resolved.  While a looming secondary strike at the mine’s platinum operations in Rustenburg might not have an effect on immediate economic performance, it might have a devastating knock-on effect on investor sentiment.  Amcu members at Sibanye’s Beatrix, Kloof and Driefontein gold operations downed tools in November over wage demands.  Earlier this month, the union gave notice of its intention to embark on a secondary platinum strike in support of the gold action.  On Friday, Sibanye applied for an interdict to stop the secondary strike.  According to Amcu’s president Joseph Mathunjwa, the current strike at Sibanye’s gold operations would continue, with the secondary strike in platinum scheduled to begin on Tuesday.  Mathunjwa denied that the union had walked out of a gold membership verification process being conducted by the CCMA, saying that Amcu members would not participate pending the union’s appeal against a Labour Court decision made in December.  In that judgment, the court ordered the CCMA to facilitate an independent membership verification process to determine which union held the majority at Sibanye’s gold operations.  Mathunjwa claimed there was a concerted effort by the company and rival union the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) to portray Amcu as a trouble-making, violent union and that, so far, only one-sided narratives had been told to the public.  

Read Lesetja Malope’s report on this story in full at City Press

Aurora’s Khulubuse Zuma sequestrated

Netwerk24 reports that Khulubuse Zuma, ex- director of Aurora Empowerment Systems and nephew of former president Jacob Zuma, was provisionally sequestrated on Wednesday in the Durban High Court.  Trade union Solidarity welcomed the step, which came after Zuma failed to keep to an agreement to repay R12-million in restitution, as ordered by the court two years ago.  That arose due to reckless management at the former Pamodzi gold mines, which Aurora managed.  Gideon du Plessis, general secretary of Solidarity, said in a statement that Zuma’s sequestration meant justice was eventually being served for the 5,300 employees of Aurora who lost their jobs.  Solidarity supported the workers who, since 2010, have not been paid, although they did receive a once-off monthly payment last year.  Originally R23-million was claimed from Zuma, but he pleaded that he could only pay back R23-million.  Du Plessis indicated that the sequestration meant that there could now be a full investigation into all of Zuma’s business affairs since 2009, the date when he was appointed as a director of Aurora.  “That will hopefully reveal what happened to the almost R170-million that disappeared from the mines and also what Zuma’s business dealings in Africa were or are,” Du Plessis indicated.  A sequestration application in respect of former Aurora director Zondwa Mandela, grandson of Nelson Mandela en Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, will be heard in February.

Read Elvira Wood’s report on this matter in full in Afrikaans at Netwerk24 (paywall access only). Read too, Khulubuse Zuma’s estate provisionally sequestrated, at Moneyweb. And also, Solidarity welcomes sequestration of Khulubuse Zuma, at Mining Weekly

Harmony, Gold Fields selected for 2019 Bloomberg Gender Equality Index

Mining Weekly reports that gold miners Harmony Gold and Gold Fields have been selected for the 2019 Bloomberg Gender Equality Index that distinguishes companies that are committed to transparency in gender reporting and advancing women’s equality.  The two companies are among 230 companies selected globally for inclusion in the index.  The 230 companies employ more than 15-million people, of whom seven-million are women.  In this year’s index, 13 new markets are represented for the first time, including Argentina, China, Israel and South Africa.  Bloomberg’s standardised reporting framework for the index offers public companies the opportunity to disclose information on how they promote gender equality across four separate areas, namely company statistics, policies, community engagement and products and services.  Reporting companies that score above a globally established threshold are included in the index.

Read the original of this report in full at Mining Weekly

Other labour / community posting(s) relating to mining

  • Before and After: the devastation wrought by Zuma & Co at Grootveli, Orkney gold mines, at Miningmx
  • Coal mining community in Mpumalanga shows the beautiful side of SA, at News24

Other general posting(s) relating to mining

  • AngloGold faces South African dilemma as M&A gold rush quickens, at Moneyweb
  • Gamsberg set to trigger new wave of industrialisation in Northern Cape, at Mining Weekly
  • AEMFC says it will submit bid for Optimum assets, at Mining Weekly
  • Eskom faces coal supply shortfall, long term contracts coming to an end, at Engineering News


DISPUTES

Comair says it’s committed to finding resolution to Numsa wage dispute

ANA reports that airline Comair said on Friday it had been unable to agree on a way forward on its salary dispute with National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa), but was still committed to an amicable and equitable resolution.  Last month the two parties agreed to set up a working committee to deal with wage discrepancies and shift patterns at Comair, after reaching an understanding at the CCMA to avert a looming strike.  On Friday, Comair’s Wrenelle Stander said Numsa's claim that white personnel were paid R7,000 a month more than their colleagues on the basis of race was factually incorrect.  The airline said that the salary discrepancies of the 21 employees at issue had come about as a result of evolving airport operations.  It explained that, going back as far as 2009, some salary scales had been collapsed.  Stander said while the company was unable to support Numsa's current stance to increase the salaries of the rest of the 683 employees in the bargaining unit to match those of the 21 outlier salaries, it remained willing to find ways to close the gap.

A short report in this regard is at Business Report


LABOUR MARKET / JOB CREATION

Launch of R35m textile and clothing firm to stimulate textile sector in KZN

Engineering News reports that trade and industry Deputy Minister Bulelani Magwanishe and KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) economic development MEC Sihle Zikalala will, on 22 January, launch a multimillion-rand textile firm Africa Bespoke Apparel (ABA), in KZN.  ABA is a 100%-black owned company operating in the textile, clothing and footwear sector.  The company is the first among black industrialist beneficiaries to create about 450 employment opportunities within four months of its operation.  It was approved for grant funding of R35.5-million from the Department of Trade and Industry’s (DTI’s) Black Industrialists Scheme (BIS) and the project was co-funded by the KZN government’s growth fund.  “The BIS supported ABA in acquiring new equipment to simplify and improve the production process, with increased flexibility and safety, which is combined with the realisation of guaranteed high quality to meet the demands of the modern textiles and clothing sector,” commented Magwanishe.  Zikalala said the provincial government was proud of ABA’s achievements, adding that it augured well for initiatives to revive the textile industry, which has not been performing well in the past 20 years.

Read a short report on this matter at Engineering News

Other internet posting(s) in this news category

  • DA’s Maimane promises more jobs to Oudtshoorn residents, at EWN
  • Jobs that are in-demand for the start of 2019, at Business Report


RESTRUCTURING / RETRENCHMENTS

SABC job cut process on hold as talks with stakeholders continue

BusinessLive reports that the SA Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), which remains in a dire financial situation, has suspended its staff retrenchment process amid pressure from the government, labour and other stakeholders.  The public broadcaster had hoped to conclude the process by the end of January.  It has been unable to pay all its creditors and warned in November that it would be unable to pay salaries by February, unless a R3bn guarantee was secured from the government.  The planned job cuts were likely to affect about 1,000 permanent employees and 1,200 freelancers.  SABC spokesperson Neo Momodu confirmed at the weekend that the retrenchment process was suspended and said:  "The SABC communicated to staff and organised labour at the end of 2018 that the envisaged [section] 189 process [retrenchments] was held in abeyance and this is still the case to date.  The SABC’s dire financial situation is a matter of public record.  Monies owed to creditors are steadily climbing, however, the SABC has worked out a payment plan in consultation with the relevant creditors for the outstanding payments.  The SABC management continues to discuss its financial sustainability and related issues with the relevant stakeholders, and is working to find a solution for the benefit of the SABC, its employees and the SA public."  The SABC spends more than R3bn a year on the salaries of 3,000 permanent employees.  It expects a net loss of R805m in the 2018/19 financial year, should cost-cutting measures not be implemented.

Read Bekezela Phakathi’s report in regard to this story in full at BusinessLive


BUSINESS RESCUE / JOBS AT RISK

Edcon closing in on rescue package, to the relief of its thousands of employees

Business Times reports that Edcon has secured a deal in principle to recapitalise the business, averting the possible sell-off of the retailer's brands or closure of the country's largest non-food retailer.  This will be a huge relief for the thousands who are employed by the company, supply it or buy from it.  The group has 27,000 permanent employees.  With seasonal and casual staff, this increases to about 40,000.  CEO Grant Pattison said that the deal was not yet binding and still needed to be implemented, but nonbinding expressions of interest were reached in the last week of December.  “Now it's about putting in place the detailed clauses of the final agreement," he indicated.  Previous reports said the deal included Edcon's landlords being asked to take a significant reduction in the rentals from Edcon, in exchange for a small stake in the company.  There are likely to be about 250 shareholders in the recapitalised business after the deal has been implemented.  It is not yet clear if the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) will be a shareholder.  Hurdles still exist in the form of regulatory approvals in the various jurisdictions in which the company operates.  "I'm feeling positive," Pattison said - for the first time since taking over at Edcon.

Read Adele Shevel’s report on this story in full at BusinessLive (paywall access only)

SA in danger of losing its tobacco-growing industry, with 10,000 direct jobs at risk

BusinessLive reports that SA is at risk of losing its tobacco-growing industry following notification by British American Tobacco Southern Africa (Batsa) to the country’s only tobacco processor that it might have to consider buying foreign tobacco should the illicit industry gain further traction.  Batsa wrote in December to Rustenburg-based Limpopo Tobacco Processors (LTP), which buys and processes most of SA’s tobacco crop from about 100 commercial farmers and about 150 emerging farmers, pointing out the deteriorating market conditions for the tax-paying portion of the industry.  Batsa indicated that sales volumes have declined from 15.2-billion cigarettes in 2016 to an estimated 11.5-billion in 2018, "solely as a result of the ever-increasing availability of illegal cigarettes for R10 per pack on average".  The primary tobacco industry employs 10,000 farm workers with 35,000 dependants.  Illicit trade in tobacco and other products has flourished since the skills exodus that effectively eliminated the investigative and enforcement capacity of the SA Revenue Service (Sars) in the years since 2014, when Tom Moyane took over as national commissioner.  Batsa’s letter "puts the very existence of our company in doubt", said Christo van Staden, the MD of LTP.  He has written to finance minister Tito Mboweni and other ministries to ask them for a meeting to discuss the issue.

Read Tim Cohen’s report on this story in full at BusinessLive


PENSION FUNDS

ANC’s talk about prescribed pension fund assets makes public sector unions, fund managers nervous

Fin24 reports that the ANC’s commitment in its general election manifesto to investigating prescribed pension fund assets has public sector unions and financial institutions nervous that the party wants to use pension funds to feed Eskom and other troubled state-owned entities.  The manifesto indicates:  "The ANC will mobilise funds within a regulatory framework for socially productive investments – including housing, infrastructure for social and economic development and township and village economy – and job creation, while considering the risk profiles of the affected entities."  Ivan Fredericks of the Public Servants Association (PSA) said they would soon have a meeting with the Federation of Unions of SA (Fedusa) where the matter of public servants’ pensions would be on the agenda.  "The ANC is mentioning that they will approach the GEPF (Government Employees Pension Fund) to use public service money from the pension to assist the country’s economy.  We do not want to make assumptions of what they want to do before these bodies are approached formally," said Fredericks.  He added said the PSA had not backed off from its demand of union representation on the board of the Public Investment Corporation (PIC), which invests the GEPF’s funds.  Albert Botha of Ashburton Investments commented that prescribed assets interfered with the capital allocation function of markets, distorting asset prices and allocating capital to organisations that might not necessarily deserve the amount of capital that prescription would give them access to.

Read Khulekani Magubane’s report on this matter in full at Fin24. Read too, It’s not on to use pensions to bail out state, at Mail & Guardian


CORRUPTION / WORKPLACE CRIME

Port Elizabeth bookkeeper sentenced to 13 years in prison for defrauding employer of R4m

News24 reports that a 45-year-old woman, who worked as a bookkeeper, has been given 13 years behind bars for defrauding her former employer of R4-million.  Lindy Johanna Sharp was sentenced in the Port Elizabeth Specialised Commercial Crimes Court on Friday.  She was employed as a bookkeeper at a Port Elizabeth-based electronics company from 2013 to 2017.  Hawks spokesperson Captain Anelisa Feni explained that during her time as an employee there, Sharp changed the banking details of the company's creditors to her own banking details.  She also gave herself a "lucrative" salary and awarded herself a bonus without the permission of the company's director.  The company lost an estimated R4m.  Sharp was arrested by the Hawks' Serious Commercial Crimes Unit in November 2017.  This was reportedly not Sharp's only crime.  In 2015, she pleaded guilty to defrauding the SA African Revenue Service (SARS) of R2m.  She was sentenced to eight years in prison for that offence and was serving time when she was sentenced on Friday for the bookkeeping scam.

Read the original of a short report at News24


COMMUTING / TRANSPORT TO WORK

Cape Town’s rail enforcement unit makes seven arrests for various crimes

EWN reports that over the past week the City of Cape Town’s rail enforcement unit has made several arrests while conducting a series of inspections at scrap yards, bucket shops and other hotspots.  Seven suspects were nabbed in Woodstock, as well as in the Claremont and Rondebosch areas, for crimes such as theft, attempted robbery, malicious damage to property and the possession of stolen property.  Thirteen metres of copper cable and a saw were among the items confiscated.  Metrorail regional manager Richard Walker said he believed the unit's efforts to curtail metal theft would over time resonate in a more stable and reliable rail service.  In October, 100 officers were deployed to the city’s rail network.  Since the deployment of the rail enforcement unit, there have been no arson attacks on trains in Cape Town.  Previously, a spate of train fires caused mayhem on the network.

Read the original of Lauren Isaacs’ short report at EWN

Other internet posting(s) in this news category

  • Pretoria train crash baffling, says mayor Msimanga, at Security.co.za
  • ‘Prasa’s unspent R20m on infrastructure’ should’ve been used to save commuters’ lives, on page 3 of The Citizen of 17 January 2019

 


Get other news reports at the SA Labour News home page