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, 3 May 2019.


TOP STORY – DURBAN MUNICIPAL STRIKE

Unions will be held accountable for damages during eThekwini strike, KZN premier warns

News24 reports that on Friday KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) Premier Willies Mchunu warned that striking eThekwini Metro workers who illegally used municipal vehicles and caused damages would be held accountable.  "In terms of protests, we are beginning to quantify what unions are liable for.  Our task is to ensure that they are held to account for any damage to property.  If the municipality has incurred costs as a result of this strike, it must be quantified, and the bill must go to them," Mchunu indicated during a media briefing on the strike.   He added:  "Any unprotected strike opens you up to civil claim.  We don't want a repeat of this thing.  People cannot just wake up and embark on an illegal strike. There are laws that they are well aware of."  According to Mchunu, authorities had made 31 arrests, with charges including attempted murder, public violence, road traffic infringements, illegal use of council vehicles and damage to business property.  Going forward, the municipality had begun tracking access to vehicles so protesters cannot use them.  A government intervention task team was apparently working on the ground to ensure stability.  The striking workers have claimed the municipality recently hired members of the MK Veterans on a higher wage scale and have called for their salaries to be upgraded to the same level.

Read the full original of Kaveel Singh’s report on the above at News24. Read too, Police arrest 30 striking eThekwini workers, impound 18 municipal trucks, at Daily News. And also, Durbanites asked to keep their refuse off the streets amid ongoing protest, at TimesLIVE

eThekwini municipality refers pay grade dispute to bargaining council

ANA reports that the eThekwini Municipality said on Thursday that it had decided to take the grievances of its striking workers, who want to be elevated to a grade 10 salary level, to the central bargaining council to deliberate on the matter and make a ruling.  This followed a series of talks that failed to resolve the matter.  Hundreds of workers have been on strike since the beginning of last week after news that former members of uMkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans Association (MKMVA) employed as general assistants by the city would be promoted from grade 4 level salaries to grade 10, thus raising their monthly salaries from around R9,000 to R20,000.  City manager Sipho Nzuza, in a statement, said that eThekwini did not have jurisdiction on the matter because the bargaining council was the legitimate forum to handle the dispute.  Nzuza appealed to workers to resume their duties with immediate effect and refrain from resorting to violent means in the event of a dispute with the employer.  Nzuza said the principle of no work no pay would apply and workers could face disciplinary action as the city had obtained an interdict making it unlawful to participate in the strike.

Read the full original of the report on the above at The Citizen

SAPS refutes that reservoir outside Durban was ‘bombed’ as part of illegal industrial action

ANA reports that the SA Police Service (SAPS) said on Sunday that reports in the media suggesting that a reservoir in the Montclair area just outside Durban had been “bombed” were not only false, but also very irresponsible.  On Saturday morning at about 5am, the walls of a water reservoir in Alamein Avenue in Montclair gave way, causing hundreds of kilolitres of water to gush out, fortunately with no injuries or deaths.  SAPS spokesman Brigadier Vishnu Naidoo said that forensic experts had found no evidence to even suggest that the damage to the reservoir had been caused by any form of criminal action.  On Saturday, City of eThekwini city manager Sipho Nzuza claimed in a statement that the reservoir had been “bombed”.  “We have [a] strong suspicion that it is related to the illegal industrial action that is under way in our municipality,” he stated.  The city retracted the statement later on Saturday, saying investigators had pointed out that the damage could have been caused by structural defects.  Naidu indicated that that preliminary investigations suggested that the structure of the reservoir might have been weakened by the recent heavy rain and flooding in the Durban and surrounding areas, causing the walls to give way.

Read the full original of the report on this story at The Citizen. Read too, eThekwini water reservoir not bombed as earlier asserted, at News24

Other internet posting(s) in this news category

  • More Durban disruptions likely as city strike set to go on, at Sunday Tribune


MINING LABOUR

Mining resumes at Sibanye-Stillwater platinum shaft as investigation into falling rails starts

TimesLIVE reports that underground operations resumed at Sibanye-Stillwater's Thembelani shaft in Rustenburg on Friday after it was certified safe for normal hoisting operations.  At about 1pm on 30 April, rails being transported underground at the shaft came loose while being slung under the conveyance and fell down the shaft.  "The removal of the fallen rails, shaft repair work and independent assessment of the shaft was completed safely and without incident, which is testament to the deep levels of competence within our organisation.  We will now focus on establishing exactly what caused the rails to dislodge,” CEO Neal Froneman said.  "While an inspection was performed by the shaft personnel, about 1,800 day shift employees gathered at the shaft stations at the Thembelani shaft.  All employees were later safely hoisted from the 14th level that evening after the shaft inspection confirmed that it was safe to do so," the company said.  Froneman stated that the workers had been safe at all times during the incident.

Read the full original of the report on the above at TimesLIVE

Optimum Coal axes more than 400 workers as business rescue process drags on

City Press reports that the ongoing business rescue at Optimum Coal has finally claimed its first victims, with more than 400 workers at the mine having been served with retrenchment letters on Tuesday.  This was the first retrenchment since the Gupta family took over the mine in 2015, and a year after the mine was placed under business rescue in February 2018.  Richard Mkhuzulu, National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) branch secretary at Optimum, painted a bleak picture of the conditions workers were currently going through while the business rescue process dragged on.  He said the closure of the biggest mine in the area had already had devastating consequences, and the recent retrenchments had all but dashed hopes of an economic recovery for the workers.  Mkhuzulu said that although the workers were told that the process would be completed by July, he doubted the veracity of that statement.  “The last time I checked, there have been more than 50 court cases delaying the process.  As employees, out of desperation we went to the [business rescue] practitioners and asked to be terminated so that we could access our pension monies.  But nothing has happened.”  Mkhuzulu indicated that 75% of the workforce at the mine were contractors, adding that the financial straits workers found themselves in had gone beyond vehicle and house repossessions.  Workers had to resort to queueing at soup kitchens organised by charities in the area.  Louis Klopper, one of the mine’s business rescue practitioners, advised that the rescue process should be completed by end-July, when a meeting of the creditors would be held and a preferred bidder decided on.

Read more of the City Press report by Lesetja Malope on the above at SA Labour News

Arnot mineworkers go from being jobless to owning a colliery

City Press Business reports that the efforts of eight former Exxaro Arnot Colliery employees who were laid off in 2015 have paid off as their former employer has made them co-owners of the mine.  The eight employees were among the 1,200 employees who lost their jobs when the mine closed in 2015 because Eskom did not renew its coal supply contract.  The eight are now 25% owners of the coal mine.  The rest of the former workers own another 25% and Wescoal owns the remaining 50%, having put in more than R100 million.  All 1,200 former employees, including those who have already been employed elsewhere, comprise the shareholders of the 25%.  During a ceremony held at the mine last week to mark the handing over of the workers’ 50% shareholding in the venture, Mineral Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe said the deal was a groundbreaking first for the country and there was a responsibility on all the stakeholders to make it a success.  The eight employees, who had contributed their pensions to own 25% of the workers’ 50%, had started a company called Innovators Resources.  The company had been advised by Exxaro to get a partner with enough operating capital, which led to Wescoal coming on board.  The company negotiated with Exxaro for almost two years to thrash out the details of the deal.  Exxaro’s Mxolisi Mgojo indicated that the board had agreed to give all its assets at the mine, including the mining right, to the former workers to use as equity to make up the other 25% of the deal.  Meantime, the Mhluzi Unemployment Structure protested outside Arnot Colliery during the ceremony.  They handed over a memorandum to Mantashe demanding the reopening of nearby Optimum mine and the employment of locals, among other issues.

Read more of this City Press report by Lesetja Malope at SA Labour News

Kangra Coal symbolically hands over community, employee shares

Mining Weekly reports that Menar MD Vuslat Bayoglu on Thursday symbolically handed over 5% free carried shares to host communities and employees of Kangra Coal.  This was at a ceremony which included the unveiling of the coal company's new logo and the handing over of a memorandum from the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM).  The event took place at the Kangra Coal operations, near Piet Retief, in Mpumalanga, where Bayoglu reaffirmed Menar subsidiary Canyon Coal’s commitment to Mining Charter 3.  Bayoglu explained that the share dividends would be overseen and distributed by community and employee trusts, adding that the trusts would have three trustees each, namely a Kangra Coal representative, an independent nonexecutive director and a third trustee representing the community and employee leadership on their respective trusts.  The importance of mutual understanding was also echoed by NUM local leader Isaac Mbonani.  He thanked Menar for giving workers shares and for their willingness to address the concerns raised by communities.  His speech followed the handing over of a memorandum, which aired the union's grievances regarding transformation.  But, he acknowledged during his speech that Menar and Kangra were committed addressing the issues, many of which had developed under the mine's previous ownership.

Read the full original of the report on the above at Mining Weekly

Other general posting(s) relating to mining

  • Platinum seen contributing as much to South Africa's economy as gold did in the 20th century, at Mining Weekly
  • Anglo American becomes founding sponsor of the World Bank’s Climate Smart Mining fund, at Anglo News (press statement)


PROTESTS / MARCHES

Cape Town paramedics and community health workers march to protest over work hours

GroundUp reports that dozens of paramedics and community health workers marched on Thursday to the Western Cape Department of Health in Cape Town to protest against what they claimed were long hours and dangerous working conditions.  The National Public Service Workers’ Union (NPSWU) organised the march.  The union’s David Rayters claimed that the health department overworked paramedics and indicated as follows:  “The Basic Conditions of Employment Act says no worker is permitted to work for more 45 hours per week, but paramedics work 60 hours per week.  Workers don’t have ample time to spend with their families.”  This point was made in a memorandum handed over to John Barends, Acting Director of Labour Relations, who said they would assess the complaints at the appropriate level and deal with them.  The memorandum also claimed that the department sent paramedics to dangerous areas without considering their safety.  But Western Cape policy is that emergency workers be escorted into red zone areas by police.  The union also said that outsourcing of health work to NGOs caused community health workers to earn low salaries “close or equivalent to SASSA grants”.

The full original of Vincent Lali’s report on the march is at GroundUp


ESSENTIAL SERVICES

Committee turns down application to have public transport declared an essential service

SowetanLive reports that bus drivers have scored a big victory with the Essential Service Committee (ESC) ruling that public transport in general cannot be classified as an essential service.  The National Black Consumer Council applied for such a classification following last year's crippling strike, which began on 18 April and ended on 14 May a, affecting about one million commuters.  The ESC is a statutory body established in terms of section 70 of the Labour Relations Act to conduct investigations on services deemed essential and then to designate them accordingly.  The ESC dismissed the application in February, but served the ruling to concerned parties two weeks ago.  In terms of the act, an essential service is "a service the interruption of which endangers the life, personal safety or health of the whole or any part of the population".  Advocate Luvuyo Bono, chairperson of the ESC, found in his ruling "the applicants' arguments relied more on the financial impact that the strike action in the bus transport industry had on commuters rather than the endangerment to life, personal safety and health of the commuters … On the evidence before us, public transport cannot be designated as an essential service."  The SA Transport and Allied Workers’ Union (Satawu), which had opposed the application, said:  "We are happy the ESC is sober-minded and was able to see the frivolous application for what it was."

Read the full original of Isaac Mahlangu’s report on this story at SowetanLive


LABOUR AND POLITICS

Vavi, Jim fall out ahead of next week’s general elections over Socialist Revolutionary Workers Party

Independent News reports that the relationship between trade union allies Zwelinzima Vavi and Irvin Jim appears to have soured following the decision by Jim and leaders of the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) to form a party to contest next week’s elections.  Vavi said his federation, the SA Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu), was not campaigning for Jim’s Socialist Revolutionary Workers Party (SRWP), because the latter had latter kept the federation in dark about its decision to contest the elections.  “They (SRWP leaders) all have rights to campaign for workers’ support, but Saftu as an organisation is not campaigning for them,” Vavi asserted.  Indicating that his federation, which was launched in 2017, had not been officially informed that the SRWP, which Jim leads, was to contest the 8 May elections, Vavi said:  “Saftu has not discussed the issue of who we will vote for, and we cannot impose that without discussion.  In an organisation there should be discussions and agreements.”  A resolution which led to the forming of SRWP was taken at Numsa’s 2013 national conference.  The socialist party was launched early last month.  When contacted, Jim declined to comment except to say he had heard that Vavi had said Saftu was not campaigning for the SRWP.

Read the full original of the report by Bongani Hans on the above story at Independent News


SUSPENSIONS / DISMISSALS

National Health lab fires CEO and CFO who were suspended in 2017

BusinessLive reports that the National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS) has fired its CEO and CFO after a disciplinary hearing found they were guilty of misconduct relating to tenders worth an estimated R200m.  The NHLS suspended then CEO Joyce Mogale, and CFO Sikhumbuzo Zulu in February 2017, following allegations of corruption and maladministration leveled by the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu).  Their disciplinary process was dogged by delays, but was finally concluded on 30 April.  On Thursday, NHLS chair Eric Buch issued a statement saying Mogale and Zulu had been charged with irregularities and failure to fulfil their duties in relation to three procurements, worth approximately R200m.  The charges related to exceeding delegations of authority, irregular payments to service providers, and irregular appointment of service providers.  The chair of the disciplinary hearing, Nazeer Cassim, concluded that both employees were guilty of misconduct and recommended their dismissal.  Buch indicated that the disciplinary process had been "marred by a series of delay tactics and legal technicalities by the suspended employees" before the new enquiry finally got under way on 29 January this year.

Read the full original of Tamar Kahn’s report on the above story at BusinessLive


OTHER NEWS HEADLINES AND PRESS STATEMENTS

  • Journalist Ngwako Modjadji killed in alleged hit and run, at The Citizen
  • Deputy Labour Minister launches training programmes for unemployed in the Western Cape on DOL News (press statement)
  • Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant opens Supported Employment Enterprise factory at Seshego Industrial Park, at SA Govt News (press statement)

 


Get other news reports at the SA Labour News home page