news shutterstockIn our roundup of weekend news, see
summaries of our selection of South African
labour-related stories that appeared since
Friday, 25 October 2019.


INDUSTRIAL ACTION / STRIKES

Nehawu members at NSFAS expected to go on strike from Monday

Weekend Argus reports that the National Students Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) is facing industrial action which could disrupt the funding application process for the 2020 academic year.  The National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) has served a strike notice on the NSFAS, with action scheduled to start on Monday.  Nehawu’s Eric Kweleta said the action followed a mediation process that failed to resolve a dispute over the organisational capacity, payment of performance bonuses and alleged victimisation of some employees.  He accused management of unilaterally implementing decisions and flouting labour relations policies and laws.  Kweleta also claimed:  “There’s been an increase in cases of employee suspensions.  Some remain on suspension even after 90 days in contravention of the labour laws and victimisation of shop stewards is rampant.”  He said for the past three years employees were paid ex gratia performance bonuses because no assessments had been done, but the NSFAS now refused to pay even those ex gratia amounts.  The NSFAS said business continuity and contingency plans were in place to manage the impact of the strike.  A memorandum of grievances was scheduled to be handed to Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology Blade Nzimande on Monday.

Read the original of the above report by Bulelwa Payi at Weekend Argus

Nearly a fifth of Jozi firefighters still suspended and on partial pay following ‘strike’

The Citizen reports that nearly 20% of the City of Johannesburg’s firefighters were in their fifth week of suspension with partial pay, when they appeared at the Labour Court on Thursday.  The more than 200 workers, mostly members of trade union Demawusa, were challenging their suspension, contending that it was unlawful and unfair.  They were also challenging the Emergency Management Services’ (EMS) decision to only partially pay their salaries, stating it was against the bargaining council collective agreement.  EMS’s legal team relied on a Constitutional Court ruling that the Labour Court did not have jurisdiction to rule on whether a suspension was unlawful.  They argued that the dispute between the parties as covered under the Labour Relations Act could be resolved through other means, but not the court.  Demawusa’s attorney countered with a slew of judgments supporting his argument.  He said the firefighters’ refusal to attend callouts over the alleged non-assignment of supervisors did not constitute a strike, because the workers were simply refusing to break the law.  But, the EMS was adamant that there had been no breach of regulations.  Judgment was reserved on both the workers’ bid to have the court rule on the fairness of their suspension and the employer’s bid to have the court declare that the worker’s actions before their suspensions constituted a strike.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Simnikiwe Hlatshaneni at The Citizen


PICKETS / PROTESTS

Picket by Cosatu on Friday over at Nedlac’s mismanagement of Sasbo protest action over banking job cuts

Saturday Citizen reports that labour federation Cosatu staged a picket at the offices of the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) in Rosebank on Friday, during a meeting on the economic crisis and job losses in the country.  The picket aimed to express the federation’s disappointment at the mismanagement of their application for a Section 77 (protest action) strike against retrenchments, which was organised by its affiliate union Sasbo.  The nationwide banking sector protest was set for 27 September, but was cancelled at the last minute, due to the granting of a court interdict.  The picket was also intended to symbolise the workers’ anger against retrenchment in all sectors, including government. In a statement, the federation’s national spokesperson Sizwe Pamla said:  “The federation followed all processes and Nedlac issued the certificate to strike.  Nedlac was cited as a third responded in the Business Unity South Africa (interdict) application and its failure to defend its decision remains very troubling for workers, who are witnessing the decimation of their livelihoods through retrenchments.”

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Anastasi Mokgobu on page 6 of Saturday Citizen of 26 October 2019


OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH & SAFETY

Three injured at KZN restaurant in kitchen gas explosion

News24 reports that three people have been injured in a gas explosion at a restaurant on Compensation Beach Road in Ballito on the KwaZulu-Natal north coast, local paramedics said.  Netcare 911 responded to the incident at around 14:08 on Sunday afternoon.  Spokesperson Shawn Herbst said they had been told that "a LP gas cylinder had exploded in the kitchen injuring multiple people in the process".  Medics assessed the scene and found three patients, two adults and a female had sustained minor to moderate injuries.  Herbst said the victims were treated on the scene and would be transported to hospital once stabilised.

Read the original of the above report by Jeanette Chabalala at News24

Other internet posting(s) in this news category

  • JMPD officer wrestled to ground as bystanders watch, at News24


MINING LABOUR

Sibanye-Stillwater CEO sees wage strike unlikely at platinum mines

Bloomberg reports that according to Sibanye-Stillwater CEO Neal Froneman, platinum-mining workers were unlikely to embark on a strike as a result of the current round of wage negotiations.  Workers belonging to the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) are said to have “no appetite” to strike at the company’s Rustenburg and Marikana mines.  New secret-ballot voting rules to decide on strike action are likely to help workers to make decisions independent of union leaders.  Froneman said it was possible to reach a “fair settlement” with Amcu in negotiations for a new wage deal currently being mediated by the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA).  “If I have called it wrong, there is a secret strike ballot and, based on interactions we had with our employees, chances of a strike are really remote,” Froneman opined

Read the original of the above report at Mining Weekly

Gold industry reels under attacks by heavily armed gangs

BL Premium reports that SA’s gold industry is reeling under an increased number of attacks by heavily armed gunmen at their processing plants.  The industry has for years struggled with illegal miners, known as zama-zamas, bribing or coercing their way into their underground operations, hacking out gold-bearing reef, stealing copper cables and engaging in pitched gun battles with each other and security officers.  But, the narrative over the past year has taken on a new and more sinister tone, with gangs armed with AK-47s and other automatic rifles attacking plants to steal concentrate or smelted gold.  The most recent attack was on DRDGold on 21 October, when a gang of about 16 to 20 men armed with automatic rifles took 11 company employees hostage at the Ergo operation near Brakpan to gain access to the gold plant.  In a late-night gun battle, DRDGold chief security officer Bart Coetzee was shot dead, and the gang made off with 17kg of gold in concentrate worth about R12m.  Sibanye-Stillwater was raided over the past year by a gang that was seen off by security after a fierce gun battle.  Gold One was attacked by a gang of 20 in May, when a wall of the smelter house was destroyed with mine equipment and gold worth R25m stolen.  A senior gold executive said that there had been about a dozen such attacks so far in 2019, and the industry was demanding a more focused response from the police, with specialist reaction teams deployed by helicopter to intervene.  He said the level of organisation and military-style tactics deployed in these attacks suggested that the gold-theft syndicates had turned to members of cash-in-transit gangs to assist in attacking relatively vulnerable gold plants.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Allan Seccombe at BusinessLive (paywall access only)


UNION STRUCTURES

PSA branch to appeal Labour Court decision in bid to force removal of recently elected members

The Saturday Star reports that a faction in the Public Service Association (PSA) intends to appeal a decision of the Labour Court in a bid to force the union to remove members of the board who were elected last month.  The Labour Court ruled against an application by three departmental branch leaders against the PSA.  A source in the union said on Friday they would appeal the judgment this week.  PSA spokesperson Tahir Maepa confirmed the matter was heard in court in a case regarding elections that happened in September.  In court papers, branch leaders Joseph Pule, Donald Malebye and Khwezi Madikane challenged the PSA and its board directors.  They argued the meeting to elect the new board had been illegal, viz.:  “The first reason rendering it unlawful was the fact that it could not have been requested in writing by five or more directors because the active board members, save for the chairperson, had only four directors.  It is further clear that the newly elected members to fill the five vacancies could not be part of the five or more directors requesting the said meeting because they had not yet been officially appointed.”  They further claimed that vetting had not been conducted on the elected members.  

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Siyabonga Mkhwanazi on page 7 of The Saturday Star of 26 October 2019


LABOUR LAW NON-COMPLIANCE

Spar in Elardus Park in Pretoria closed down on Friday for alleged contravention of labour laws

News24 reports that the Department of Labour and Employment (DEL) said in a statement on Friday that one of Spar's franchise stores in Elardus Park, Pretoria, had been closed for an alleged failure to comply with various laws.  Following a compliance inspection on Thursday by the DEL, the police and various health and safety regulators, it was concluded that the store should be closed.  The Mooikloof Spar and Meatworld Butchery also came under fire from the various watchdogs.  DEL spokesperson Mishack Magakwe said:  "Based on the findings of the inspections [at the various stores], it is evident that the employers are violating workers' rights.  During the inspection, it was found that the employers are not complying with the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA), the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), the Unemployment Insurance Act and the Compensation of Injuries and Disease Act (Coida).  The employers failed to provide employees with information concerning remuneration and failed to issue out particulars of employment in the form of contracts, whilst on the other hand engaging in unlawful deductions from employees' wages."  It was also allegedly uncovered that employees worked excessive hours without overtime pay and their family responsibility leave was disregarded.  Immigration laws were also allegedly disregarded and several undocumented foreign nationals were detained.  The franchise was given 14 days to comply with orders issued by the department.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Kamva Somdyala at News24


EXECUTIVE PAY

Comair board to come under scrutiny at AGM over chair’s ‘excessive’ fees

BL Premium reports that aviation company Comair’s remuneration policy and the tenure of its board members are set to come under the spotlight at Tuesday’s annual general meeting (AGM).  The shareholders will be asked to approve the company’s remuneration policy and a number of other resolutions, including an increase of the chair’s fees from R1.59m to R1.67m.  Comair, the operator of Kulula.com and British Airways in SA, has also proposed that fees for its joint deputy chairs increase from R464,576 to R487,805, while those of ordinary nonexecutive directors are set to increase from R199,104 to R209,059.  But, Proxy View, which advises institutional investors and asset managers, said the chair’s fee was excessive and indicated that:  “We do not support remuneration resolutions where the chair’s fee is more than 250% of the fees paid to an ordinary member of the board.”  Proxy View also raised concerns about the tenure of some of Comair’s nonexecutive directors, saying some had been on the board too long to be considered independent.  Comair defended the nonexecutive directors and their independence.  Meanwhile, former Comair CEO Erik Venter did not get a performance bonus in the 2019 financial year despite a strong financial performance.  While Venter, who worked the full 12 months, did not receive anything, other executive directors received bonuses ranging from R1m to R747,000.  Comair said there was nothing untoward about the decision not to award a performance bonus to Venter and that the move was in line with the rules of its remuneration policy.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Siseko Njobeni at BusinessLive (paywall access only)


DISMISSALS / SUSPENSIONS

Fired PIC whistle-blower claims disciplinary process was tainted due to non-neutrality of chair

BusinessLive reports that the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) employee who testified to serious malfeasance by senior executives involving the R4.3bn investment into Ayo Technology Solutions has challenged the integrity of the disciplinary process that saw him being fired.  The corporation fired assistant portfolio manager Victor Seanie on Tuesday following the conclusion of a disciplinary process.  “Mr Seanie was found guilty of the disciplinary charges proffered against him, which included charges of breaching the PIC’s internal policies in investment decisions,” the PIC indicated.  But Seanie has cast doubt on the neutrality of the PIC disciplinary process, saying:  “The so-called independent chairperson was appointed by the PIC’s legal representatives and, as a result of his conduct during proceedings, I do not consider him to be impartial,” said Seanie.  He has not indicated what his next move would be.  Seanie testified at the inquiry into PIC in January how former PIC CEO Dan Matjila pressured him to approve the Ayo investment and even went as far as signing the subscription agreement authorising the approval of the transaction.  Sygnia CEO Magda Wierzycka said Seanie’s axing was “appalling”.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Warren Thompson at BusinessLive. Read too, PIC fires investment manager implicated in AYO deal, at Fin24. And also, I’m the fall guy, says axed PIC analyst, on page 33 of Saturday Citizen of 26 October 2019


POLICE MISCONDUCT

KZN cop on the run after allegedly shooting man dead during argument at a liquor outlet

News24 reports that a KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) policeman is being sought after he allegedly gunned down a man during an argument in the early hours of Sunday morning.  Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) spokesperson Sontaga Seisa said the suspect, based at Inanda police station, apparently argued with a man about a torch light while at a liquor outlet in Amaoti, at around 04:00.  He went on to report:  "The argument led the constable to fetch his police-issued pistol from his vehicle.  Upon returning, the constable fired five shots and injured the 28-year-old male… The constable disappeared from the scene and he is still being sought for his actions.”  The injured man was taken to the clinic, where he was certified dead.  Seisa said Ipid was concerned by the conduct of police officials, especially while off-duty and added:  "Some of them have a tendency of visiting public entertainment areas and /or liquor outlets whilst having access to the firearms.  This should not be the case or practice as the firearm legislation is clear on how to manage and handle all firearms."

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Jenna Etheridge at News24

Four Honeydew cops arrested for savage assault and murder of a detainee

News24 reports that four police officers stationed at the Honeydew police station in Gauteng have been arrested for the assault and murder of a detainee.  The incident happened on Sunday night.  The constables, aged 25 to 36, were arrested on Friday, spokesperson for the Independent Police Investigative Directorate, Sontaga Seisa, indicated.  He reported further as follows:  "It is alleged that the four on-duty constables continuously punched and kicked the two arrested males until the 39-year-old male dropped down whilst in handcuffs.  The fact that the deceased dropped down and started bleeding did not deter the constables from assaulting and kicking him."  After the assault, the detainees were left in the holding cell.  The deceased man’s cellmate alerted officers when he started to breathe abnormally, but this was ignored.  Later, the police removed the surviving assault victim and took him to Randburg police station for detention."  The police officers were scheduled to appear in the Randburg Magistrate's Court on Monday.

Read the original of the above report by Jeanette Chabalala at News24

 


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