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, 24 January 2019.


TOP STORY

Back to school for Schweizer-Reneke teacher after labour court lifts her suspension

TimesLIVE reports that North West primary school teacher Elana Barkhuizen has won her labour court challenge against her suspension.  On Thursday, the court found that her suspension by the North West education MEC Sello Lehari was flawed, as she was in the employ of the school governing board, not the department of education.  In addition, Judge Connie Prinsloo found that her suspension had been finalised without following due process.  Prinsloo ruled that the suspension be lifted and Barkhuizen could return to work.  The Laerskool Schweizer-Reneke teacher was suspended after photographs that she shared to parents on WhatsApp sparked a race row.  One of the photos showed black Grade R pupils seated separately from their white counterparts.  With the assistance of trade union Solidarity, she brought an urgent application to set aside the suspension.  Solidarity commented after Thursday's court ruling:  "We will have discussions with the governing body this afternoon as to when she will be back at work."

Read the original of this report at TimesLIVE

Laerskool Schweizer-Reneke teacher's victory a lesson in democracy, says Solidarity

The Star reports that Solidarity has claimed victory in the case of the Laerskool Schweizer-Reneke teacher who had been suspended following an uproar over a picture purporting to show pupils racially segregated in a Grade R class.  Dr Dirk Hermann, the trade union’s chief executive, said they were pleased with the ruling and grateful for Elana Barkhuizen’s sake that a form of justice prevailed for her.  "However, we are still disappointed that we had to take this battle all the way to court,” Hermann said.  “This incident is a lesson for everyone in South Africa about how democracy should not work,” Hermann added.  The union initiated the legal action on behalf of Barkhuizen because it believed that her suspension was unlawful and should be lifted.  On Thursday morning, Johannesburg Labour Court Judge Christina Prinsloo lifted the suspension.  Prinsloo ordered that Barkhuizen return to work immediately and that she be allowed to return safely.  In her judgment, Prinsloo ruled that it had been illegal for the North West MEC of Education Sello Lehari to suspend Barkhuizen as she was not employed by the department.  She also said it had not been necessary to suspend her.

Read Botho Molosankwe’s report on this story in full at The Star


MINING LABOUR

Fully self-driving truck fleets on the cards in the mining industry

BusinessLive writes that trials of autonomous trucks for the road are continuing, but it’s likely that the mining industry will be among the first to use fully self-driving trucks.  Numerous trials have taken place over the last couple of years and some SA mining companies have apparently been in discussions with at least one truck manufacturer.  However, no such plans have been confirmed.  That’s probably because the unions are unlikely to approve of the introduction of autonomous trucks.  But, the reality is that they will come; it’s just a matter of when.  Elsewhere in the world, tests continue and in Australia Rio Tinto is trialling autonomous Scania trucks in its Dampier Salt operations as part of its existing autonomous truck fleet.  A safety driver still has to be in the cab, just in case anything does not go according to plan.  “Mining sites, given their high vehicle utilisation rates are ideal for testing new autonomous technology,” says Björn Winblad of Scania Mining.  Last year Rio Tinto began retrofitting a number of its large mining trucks at some of its mines to make them fully autonomous, saying that they will make a significant contribution to its productivity improvement plan.  By the end of 2019, the company will have 130 autonomous trucks in operation, representing a significant 30% of its fleet.

Read Mark Smyth’s report on this subject in full at BusinessLive

Other labour / community posting(s) relating to mining

  • DMR says independent survey of Xolobeni community on mining will be the final word, at Fin24
  • North West: Health Forum to address health challenges in mining communities (press statement), at SA Govt News


INDUSTRIAL ACTION / STRIKES

Metrobus in Johannesburg served with notice of strike to start on 28 January

Fin24 reports that Metrobus in Johannesburg said in a statement on Thursday morning that it had been served with a strike notice by one of its unions.  The strike, due to start on Monday, 28 January 2019, is being organised by the Democratic Municipal and Allied Workers’ Union of SA (Demawusa).  According to Metrobus, negotiations to avert the strike were at an advanced stage on Thursday.  "Metrobus management is currently engaging with the unions, all relevant stakeholders, the public and all valued customers will be kept abreast with the developments,." Metrobus advised.  Demawusa could not be reached on Thursday morning for comment.

The original of this short report is at Fin24


COLLECTIVE BARGAINING / WAGE NEGOTIATIONS

Comair and Numsa reach two-year wage agreement

ANA reports that Comair and the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) reached a wage settlement on Wednesday, the airliner indicated.  Wrenelle Stander, executive director of Comair’s Airline Division, said:  “I am pleased to advise that Comair and Numsa have reached a two-year wage settlement.  This positive outcome averted the threat of a strike and possible inconvenience to our customers.  Comair and Numsa have worked hard with the CCMA’s [Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration’s] guidance to find a resolution and we’re grateful to all parties for the amicable manner in which these negotiations were held.  We would also like to thank our staff for their ongoing commitment and support.  The wellbeing of our employees remains our foremost priority and we will continue to invest in that.”

This short report is at Engineering News


PROTESTS / MARCHES / CAMPAIGNS

Dis-Chem and Blue Ribbon workers march in Cape Town demanding investigation into police behaviour during strikes

GroundUp reports that about 150 workers from Dis-Chem and Blue Ribbon Bakeries, as well as union officials, marched to Cape Town’s central police station on Wednesday to protest about police treatment of striking workers last year.  They also marched to the Department of Labour (DoL).  The marchers, from labour federation Saftu and two of its affiliates, Fawu and Nupsaw, handed in a memorandum calling for an official investigation into police behaviour and for the DoL to intervene at Dis-Chem and Blue Ribbon Bakeries.  Workers at both companies have been on strike since December.  Nupsaw members at Dis-Chem are demanding a minimum wage of R12,500, an annual increase of 12.5% and a guaranteed annual bonus.  Fawu members at Blue Ribbon are demanding a 10% salary increase and funeral cover.  Saftu provincial secretary Andre Adams claimed workers had been “shot at and detained”.  In December, the unions handed in the same memorandum at the police station and the department.  They said if their demands were not met they would march every month.

Read Lucas Nowicki’s report in this regard in full at GroundUp


BUSINESS RESCUE

Financially distressed Edcon appeals to PIC for rescue funding

BusinessLive reports that struggling retailer Edcon is in talks with the Public Investment Corporation (PIC), in a bid to raise funds to keep it afloat.  The PIC, which manages about R2-trillion on behalf of the Government Employees Pension Fund (GEPF) and other state funds, confirmed it was in talks to rescue the owner of Jet, Edgars and CNA.  Although the total amount required by Edcon is unknown, it is estimated at about R3bn.  Edcon, which operates 1,350 stores and employs 21,000 people across southern Africa, has been struggling in a difficult and rapidly changing retail environment.  The group’s inability to cope with these changes has forced it to negotiate with 250 stakeholders, including its shareholders and landlords, to save its operations.  "The Edcon board has approved the structure of the proposed recapitalisation plan, and in response, lenders have extended waivers to allow time for implementation," an Edcon spokesperson said.  Noting that department stores such as Edcon had been struggling to adjust to an evolving retail environment, AlphaWealth fund manager Keith McLachlan commented that the business case for supporting Edcon was not that strong.

Read Larry Claasen’s report in the above regard in full at BusinessLive


HIGHER EDUCATION / QUALIFICATIONS

Don't fall victim to bogus colleges, warns higher education and training department

News24 reports that as it embarked on a countrywide public awareness campaign, the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) warned that bogus colleges were mushrooming up all over South Africa.  It urged students and parents to first verify if institutions were registered with the department.  "The message to students is to verify if the private college, the programme they offer and the site or branch at which the programme is offered, and if the institution is accredited with the Quality Council (QC) and/or the Sector Education and Training Authority (SETA) and/or the Quality Council for Trades and Occupations (QCTO)," explained media liaison officer Lunga Ngqengelele.  "Students should also verify those institutions by looking for the certificate of registration from the department on the premises of the college.  The information on the certificate can be verified with the information on the registers which are available on the department's website," Ngqengelele added.  Students were also urged to look for the SETA or QTCO qualifications, or to contact the relevant SETA or QCTO directly.

Read Ntwaagae Seleka’s report on this story in full at News24


DISMISSALS / SUSPENSIONS

No record of Bosasa donating R100,000 to help SABC8, says Sanef

TimesLIVE reports that the SA National Editors' Forum (Sanef) has found no evidence of a R100,000 donation by Bosasa to a crowdfunding campaign for the so-called SABC8.  The SABC 8 were journalists who were suspended by the SA Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) for speaking out against censorship of protest footage.  It was reported on Tuesday that Bosasa — now known as African Global Operations — appeared in 2016 to have paid the money towards a crowdfunding campaign to help the journalists.  This assumption was based on a leaked e-mail in which a senior official instructed other officials to make the payment.  Sanef said on Wednesday:  "We have had the opportunity to go through every one of the 394 donations made in July 2016 to the cause and could not find any donation from Bosasa and/or a person connected to Bosasa, nor a donation for R100,000.  Only one donation of over R100,000 was made and that was not from Bosasa or a person connected to the company."  Sanef reiterated that no donations were solicited from anyone for the campaign and that the SABC journalists were never involved in or had access to the identities of the donors.

Read Nomahlubi Jordaan’s report in the above regard in full at TimesLIVE. Read Sanef’s press statement in this regard at Sanef News


DISCIPLINARY ACTION

DAFF Minister go to court to stop disciplinary hearings of three of his officials

News24 reports on the attempt by Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) Minister Senzeni Zokwana to get the Western Cape High Court to order the department's director general to stop the disciplinary proceedings of three officials.  He cited the need to protect classified documents.  "We are in essence here to protect those documents," advocate Porchia Long submitted on Zokwana's behalf.  She said the minister himself tried to resolve the matter with director general Mzamo Mlengana because he felt external law enforcement agencies should be dealing with it, but to no avail.  Mlengana was appointed in 2016, suspended in 2017, but returned to his post in 2018 when the Johannesburg High Court ruled that the minister had no power to suspend him.  According to the court papers, while he was on suspension, whistleblowers made certain protected disclosures to Zokwana.  Mlengana was reinstated and he instituted disciplinary proceedings against three officials, ignoring Zokwana's instructions to halt the proceedings because the classified documents had to be declassified.  According to Zokwana, the hearings could affect the investigation by the Hawks, the National Prosecuting Authority and the Public Protector, who were better placed to probe the allegations.  Zokwana’s application was postponed to 8 February.

Read Jenni Evans’ report in this regard in full at News24


CORRUPTION / WORKPLACE CRIME

KZN prisons boss suspended amid Bosasa bribe claims

BusinessLive report that KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) prisons head Mnikelwa Nxele, who was implicated in state capture testimony by former Bosasa executive Angelo Agrizzi, has been suspended.  Nxele was fingered by Agrizzi in an alleged plot to "place undue pressure" on former Department of Correctional Services (DCS) national commissioner Vernie Petersen in 2007.  He allegedly accepted bribes from the firm to the value of about R57,500 a month.  DCS spokesman Logan Maistry indicated that Nxele had been placed on “precautionary suspension”, but he stressed that “the process relating the precautionary suspension [of Nxele] commenced before testimony relating to the [department] before the state capture commission of inquiry.”  He said that it was the “culmination of a process that commenced early January 2019”.  Maistry added:  “As this matter relates to an employment relationship, the [department of correctional services] is unable to provide further details.”  The controversial prisons head was suspended previously after allegations of “gross insubordination” surfaced in 2016.  He challenged his suspension in court and was successfully reinstated in his post.

Read Jeff Wicks’ report on the above story in full at BusinessLive

Memo to Bosasa staff 'not an attempt to stop them speaking to Zondo commission'

TimesLIVE reports that a memo circulated to staff at African Global Operations (AGO), formerly known as Bosasa, was apparently not intended to stop them speaking to the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture.  The company - accused at the commission of widespread bribery - stated this on Wednesday in reaction to reports that employees had been instructed to "remain calm" and immediately inform a company director if contacted by the commission.  The memo apparently read:  "If any staff member gets contacted by the state capture commission, please take the details of the caller (name, surname and contact details) and immediately pass the information to Mrs Jackie Leyds ... for onward transmission to our senior counsel."  AGO executive director Papa Leshabane maintained on Wednesday afternoon that the memo was "by no means" intended to stop anyone speaking to the commission if they so wished.  "Our co-operation with the commission is unwavering.  However, I’m wondering, if one is falsely accused are they not allowed to consult counsel?" asked Leshabane.

Read Ernest Mabuza’s report in this regard in full at TimesLIVE

Other internet posting(s) in this news category

  • Government officials looted millions in land reform scam, at BusinessLive
  • Former Prasa acting CEO Mthura Swartz charged with fraud, money laundering and theft, at GroundUp


COMMUTING / TRANSPORT TO WORK

Prasa’s safety permit could still be revoked by Railway Safety Regulator

GroundUp reports that following the recent fatal train collision in Mountainview, Pretoria, the Railway Safety Regulator (RSR) is again considering the suspension of the Passenger Rail Agency of SA’s (Prasa’s) safety permit.  The collision left four people dead and 620 people injured.  If the permit is suspended, Metrorail trains across the country will stop operating.  According to Metrorail, about 1.4 million people use trains daily in Gauteng.  In October 2018, the RSR suspend Prasa’s safety operating permit following a train collision in Kempton Park that injured more than 300 people.  Prasa appealed to the North Gauteng High Court, which issued an order instructing Prasa to comply with the safety requirements set out by the RSR. The RSR then allowed Prasa to continue operating provided it met the requirements in the court order.  One of these requirements was that Prasa submit a report explaining how it planned to improve safety on trains.  Prasa did submit such a report, but it apparently did not meet the requirements.  According to RSR spokesperson Madelein Williams, one of the main issues was driver fatigue and the frequent use of manual systems when automatic signalling broke down.  Asked in the light of the most recent accident whether the RSR intended to revoke or suspend Prasa’s safety permit, Williams said the matter was still being considered by their attorneys.

Read this report in full at GroundUp


OTHER MISCELLANEOUS NEWS HEADLINES

  • World Bank says Eskom debt restructuring should be coupled to power market reform, at Engineering News
  • McBride takes on Cele in battle for contract renewal, at BusinessLive

 


Get other news reports at the SA Labour News home page