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, 28 November 2019.


Three KZN workers rescued from underground diesel tank after being overcome by gas

News24Wire reports that three workers were rescued from an underground collection tank, believed to contain diesel and oil, near Wilton Crescent, Umhlanga Ridge, Durban on Thursday morning.  The workers were cleaning the tank when they were overcome by gas.  At 10.32am, Netcare 911 responded to the scene.  SA Police Service Search and Rescue, Durban Metro Police Search and Rescue and eThekwini Fire and Rescue Services set up a rope and ladder system with breathing apparatus to enter the tank.  Netcare 911 spokesperson Shawn Herbst reported:  “All three patients had difficulty breathing and required advanced life support interventions to stabilise them.  Once treated the patients were transported by various ambulance services to hospital for further treatment.”

Read the original of the above report at The Citizen


Crunch time for SAA as ministers have to decide whether the airline lives or dies

BL Premium reports on intense interaction between the Treasury and the Department of Public Enterprises on whether to give South African Airways (SAA) one last lifeline or send it into business rescue or liquidation.  The interactions must be finalised in the coming days as the airline needs at least R2bn immediately to pay salaries and suppliers or it will have to cease trading.  Commercial banks are willing to advance the money but only on receipt of a full loan guarantee from the Treasury.  An urgent cabinet subcommittee involving finance minister Tito Mboweni and public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan must take a decision soon on the guarantee, effectively deciding whether the airline continues to trade as it is, or is dramatically restructured through business rescue, or is liquidated and assets sold off to cover liabilities.  Gordhan, who opposes both the latter options and is still seeking to secure a funding arrangement, concedes, however, that “SAA cannot continue as is”.  While an application for business rescue has already been brought by trade union Solidarity, there is some doubt about whether it will succeed as business rescue requires a reasonable prospect of success.  In SAA's case this would mean the availability of funds for it to trade its way out of distress.  But in its application, Solidarity argued that business rescue nonetheless stood a strong chance of success because the union has a readily available turnaround strategy, which has never been properly implemented.  Also, business rescue practitioners would not be swayed by politics and would do what was best for the company.

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

Strike caused 'sudden deterioration' in SAA’s finances, airline can’t continue “as is”

Fin24 reports that in a statement issued on Wednesday, the Department of Public Enterprises said the recent strike at South African Airways (SAA) and the cancellation of bookings that followed resulted in a sudden deterioration of SAA’s financial position.  "Accordingly, the Department of Public Enterprises is working together with SAA to urgently formulate immediate actions that will be required to provide support to enable SAA to carry on its business.  However, SAA cannot continue as is," the statement indicated.  It added that government efforts, under Minister Pravin Gordhan, were focused on ensuring that the airline was stabilised, governance and leadership issues were addressed and the airline returned to a stronger financial footing in the medium to longer term.  "None of this can be achieved without the necessary contributions by all the key role players in the airline.  The actions being undertaken by the Minister include involving relevant stakeholders so that they can participate in the support initiative," the statement advised.  SAA skipped a scheduled meeting with Parliament’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts on Wednesday evening, intended to brief the committee about when and how the national carrier planned to table its annual report and financial statements.  SAA apparently got permission from Scopa chair Mkhuleko Hlengwa to defer its appearance.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Khulekani Magubane at Fin24. Read too, Government says it’s working to ensure SAA's survival, at Engineering News

Anglo American’s Cutifani says group happy to open up broad skills base to help embattled Eskom

Miningmx reports that Anglo American CEO Mark Cutifani said on Wednesday that the mining group was open to approaches by government on any assistance it might be able to give power utility Eskom.  “If we can help in any way, shape or form with the work on Eskom or any of the institutions then we are willing to understand how we can make a contribution,” he stated at an end-of-year media function.  Eskom is battling with a range of financial and operational problems, including R450 billion of debt it is unable to service and ageing power stations prone to frequent breakdowns.  Cutifani explained further:  “We have to be careful that doesn’t come across as arrogant.  We aren’t suggesting we know better than anyone else, but as an organisation with more than 70,000 employees in South Africa we have a broad skills base that should be available for national projects.  Our role is more than just digging a hole, producing a product and employing people – we want to be seen as part of the community.”  Cutifani also said Anglo was committed to its operations in SA, which generated good returns.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Charlotte Mathews at Miningmx


Mark Cutifani asserts that South Africa is Anglo’s best performing mining jurisdiction

Mining Weekly reports that Anglo American CEO Mark Cutifani said on Wednesday night when chiding South Africans for not giving themselves the credit they deserved when it came to transformation already achieved, that SA was the group’s best performing mining jurisdiction.  He described SA as “a wonderful country” and said it remained Anglo's most important location.  “We’re making almost 50% of our earnings from our businesses in South Africa.  We’re proud of our roots, our heritage,” he said in an address to journalists at a year-end media function.  While the country’s navigation of transformation had been bumpy and was not yet where it needed to be, its progress outstripped everything Cutifani said he had seen in his 40 years of mining.  At President Cyril Ramaphosa’s recent investment conference, Anglo committed to ongoing investment.  On the Mining Charter, Cutifani said they still had questions, but “we’re overwhelmingly positive about the changes that have been made so far, and we’ve made the commitment to the Minister to continue to engage and hopefully be able to resolve the issues without relying on the courts.”  He went on to add that, at the same time, “we acknowledge the rights of certain individuals that probably are in a different position to where we are with our mining rights… and we would hope to play a constructive part in resolving those differences.”

Read the full original of the report in the above regard at Mining Weekly


South Africa must prepare for a post-Amsa dispensation, says Neasa’s Gerhard Papenfus

Engineering News reports that according to National Employer Association of SA (Neasa) CE Gerhard Papenfus, the downstream steel industry cannot be the “saving grace” of struggling steel producer ArcelorMittal SA (Amsa).  It was reported this month that Amsa would be undertaking an orderly and commercial wind-down of steel operations at its Saldanha Works, with the intent to place the operation on care and maintenance.  While Papenfus lamented the situation, referring to protectionist duties on steel imports he noted that government would have to choose between protecting an unprofitable Amsa employing 9,000 employees, or breaking the “stranglehold” that such duties had on the downstream steel industry, which operated across many sectors and employed more than 500,000 people.  Papenfus emphasised that the protection of Amsa by means of import duties, which was impacting on downstream manufacturing, had to come to an end.  “It cannot be expected of downstream manufacturing to be the casualty of Amsa’s salvation,” he opined.  Papenfus postulated that SA needed to start preparing for the post-Amsa dispensation.  He argued that in such a situation, the steel industry would have the privilege of accessing high-quality, cost-effective raw materials that would enhance competitiveness, resulting in SA manufacturers gaining market share, especially in the export market.  Trade union Solidarity, meanwhile, said in a statement earlier this month, that it would be addressing a letter to government and to Amsa after having instructed its Research Institute to conduct a comprehensive study on the impact of the closure of the Saldanha Works.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard at Engineering News


‘Leap’ will see 500 new cops to hit Cape Flats in February in R1.75bn war on gangs

TimesLIVE reports that more than 1,300 extra officers will be part of a R1.75bn escalation of the war against violent crime in Cape Town’s gang hotspots.  The city council mayoral committee was due to meet on Thursday to give the go-ahead for a three-and-a-half-year “law enforcement advancement plan” - dubbed Leap - that will be jointly funded with the Western Cape government.  The committee’s approval is expected to be followed by a council rubber-stamp on 5 December.  The first 500 learner law enforcement officers will be appointed on 1 February.  Another 500 officers will be added on 1 July and they will be supported by 186 commanders and investigators and 151 support staff.  The Western Cape government has committed R1.3bn to the Leap project until June 2023, while the City of Cape Town’s contribution will be R452m.  Half of the new officers will be deployed in 25-strong teams in 10 key gang-crime hotspots, namely Atlantis, Kraaifontein, Delft, Bonteheuwel, Philippi East, Nyanga, Khayelitsha, Hanover Park, Manenberg and Steenberg.  The other 500 will be part of investigative teams in the same areas, crime prevention teams, and a land invasion unit supplementing the efforts of the city council’s existing anti-land invasion officers.  Leap is part of what Western Cape premier Alan Winde said in September would be “the most comprehensive and expensive safety plan”, with the aim of halving the murder rate in 10 years.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Dave Chambers at TimesLIVE


Top management in private sector still 'lily-white' and male, laments labour minister

Fin24 reports that employment equity trends for the period between 2016 and 2018 show that top management positions in the private sector were dominated by white males.  This is according to a report by the Commission for Employment Equity, presented to the portfolio committee on employment and labour on Wednesday.  Trends show that despite the majority of the economically active population being African (78.8%), the white population group dominated top management positions over the three years.  The white population accounts for more than two-thirds (69.6%) of top management positions in the private sector, while the African population accounts for just over three-quarters (76%) of top management positions in government.  Later on Wednesday when answering questions in the National Council of Provinces related to employment policy, Labour and Employment Minister Thulas Nxesi commented on the state of employment equity.  He commented that while the majority of South Africans were black, top management in private companies was still "lily-white" and male.  "The issue of employment equity is non-negotiable," he stated, before vowing that there would be more measures to enforce it.  The Employment Equity Amendment Bill of 2019 is in the process of being finalised and is intended to be implemented from 1 September 2020.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Lameez Omarjee at Fin24


Nkomazi municipal workers refuse to give back ‘early Christmas’ paid in error

SowetanLIVE reports that Nkomazi municipal employees in Malalane, Mpumalanga, thought Christmas had arrived early when their employer "blessed" them with salaries 10 days before the October payday.  But when the municipality realised the mistake, it told its 1,073 employees that they would not be paid again at the end of the month.  The workers rebelled, shutting down water supply for a day to the towns and villages the municipality services.  The municipality buckled under pressure and paid them on 25 October.  But the municipality still wanted its money back and imposed a 20% salary deduction over seven months in an attempt to recoup the R13m it had irregularly spent on salaries on 15 October.  The workers were having none of it, saying they regarded the first payments in the month of October as "a gift" from the employer.  But, the Nkomazi municipality says it was all one big "mistake" and insists that the money should be paid back.  Municipal manager Dan Ngwenya explained:  What happened here was a mistake, instead of sending traveling claims for payment someone sent salary payments.  The total amount paid was R13.6m and we managed to return about R9m from senior management who didn't get paid on the 25th this month but only opted to receive the travelling claims, not their salaries.”  Employees however say they are not willing to pay back the money.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Mandla Khoza at SowetanLIVE


Woolworths defends CEO Ian Moir’s pay at AGM

BL Premium reports that the chair of Woolworths’ remuneration committee has defended the remuneration paid to the retailer’s CEO.  The package has been slammed for being too generous in the context of the earnings knock caused by the multibillion-rand impairment of Australian retailer David Jones.  Responding to questions from a shareholder at the group’s annual general meeting on Wednesday, Tom Boardman explained that CEO Ian Moir’s guaranteed pay had not been increased for three years and he had not received a bonus in that time.  Over the past three years the group has gone from reporting a profit of R5.4bn in 2017 to a loss of R3.5bn in 2018 and another loss of R1.1bn in 2019.  Boardman acknowledged that “in the last three years the company’s performance has been poor and this is reflected in the share price”.  In response to a question from Aeon Investment Management about how the remuneration committee controlled the ratcheting effect on remuneration of companies using a limited number of remuneration consultants, Boardman said his committee was aware of it and was trying to address it.  Aeon’s Asief Mohamed indicated after the meeting that companies generally used the same consultants which “results in executives benefiting from an ever-increasing peer group comparison.”  More than 30% of shareholders voted against the implementation of the remuneration report.  Shareholders were invited to write to the board outlining their concerns.

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


Some Cape Town train services restored on Thursday morning after fire guts several carriages

News24 reports that some train services were restored by 07:00 on Thursday morning following a fire at Cape Town Railway Station that gutted several train carriages.  A large part of the main concourse remained closed pending mop-up operations.  Metrorail said in a statement on Thursday:  "Two trains were reported on fire at Cape Town station in the early hours this morning; one in Platform 10, the other in Platform 16.  The fire soon spread to adjacent platforms, destroying two full train-sets comprising 18 carriages in total.  Firefighters battled to contain the blaze and most platforms are still covered in debris and water – the concourse and offices are filled with smoke from the incident.  No injuries have been reported."  According to Metrorail, a limited service will apply with the following arrangements: Platforms 1 to 8 will accommodate trains from the south; Platforms 20 to 24 will accommodate trains from the north and Lavistown.  Metrorail said the full extent and cost estimate of the damage would only be known once Prasa's loss adjusters have had an opportunity to assess the damage.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Riaan Grobler at News24. Read too, Recriminations begin after worst arson attack yet on Cape Town trains, at TimesLIVE


Transnet claims truck serious traffic congestion at Durban port being addressed

Engineering News reports that according to the Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA), it is addressing “serious truck traffic congestion” in the Port of Durban’s Bayhead precinct, which began on Tuesday and continued overnight into Wednesday morning.  Consequently, TNPA has arranged for the urgent deployment of the police and the Durban metro police, as well as terminal operators, to assist in the alleviation of the traffic backlog.  On Wednesday, a significant number of employees working across the terminals and depots in the Bayhead and Island View precincts reported being unable to access their workstations on time for duty.  This led to delays in landside operations, which had a knock-on effect on waterside operations.  To overcome minimise the impact on operations, TNPA deployed its waterside craft to ferry employees from the Point precinct to the Bayhead and Island View precincts.  Additionally, the statement on Wednesday indicated that Transnet was aware of an electronic message circulated by transport companies this week calling for a boycott of the Durban harbour and urging truckers to park off at their depots from 06:00 on Thursday, 28 November, until 18:00 on Monday, 2 December.  Transnet warned that this impacted on the receiving of trucks and landside operations, disrupting economic activity, frustrating neighbouring communities and threatening jobs.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard at Engineering News. Read too, Traffic congestion at Durban port ahead of calls for shutdown, at TimesLIVE


  • Health department to up its game to meet HIV treatment targets, at BusinessLive
  • When is dismissal for refusing an employer's demand automatically unfair? at Fin24


Get other news reports at the SA Labour News home page