news shutterstockIn our afternoon roundup, see summaries
of our selection of South African labour-
related stories that appeared thus far on
Wednesday, 11 December 2019.


TOP STORY - ESKOM LOAD-SHEDDING

Cosatu doesn’t believe Eskom power cuts are ‘manageable’

BL Premium reports that trade union federation Cosatu does not believe that the rolling electricity blackouts that have hit the country are manageable and has called the situation a crisis.  On Monday, state-owned power utility Eskom moved to stage 6 load-shedding, which was the first time it had removed so much power from the grid.  But public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan told the nation on television that the situation at the power utility was a “manageable crisis”.  Cosatu general secretary Bheki Ntshalintshali said on Tuesday that the problems at the utility were huge.  “We don’t think it is manageable.  It [comes] at a very, very high cost,” Ntshalintshali said.  He added that the continuation of load-shedding was “unaffordable”.  “We are at stage 6. What will come next?” he asked.  Ntshalintshali said the manner in which the government had dealt with the electricity crisis was “totally unsatisfactory” as there was no sense of when load-shedding would end and what the plans and turnaround strategies were.  “We need the full detail so that we can be confident that government, the minister ... are working to fix Eskom,” he stated.  Ntshalintshali also said Cosatu had no confidence in the Eskom board.  Gordhan’s spokesperson, Sam Mkokeli, said the minister was working flat out to minimise the effect of this week’s load-shedding, “which he considers very serious”.

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

Mines closed for a second day on Tuesday because of safety concerns over load-shedding

BusinessLive reports that most of SA’s underground mines suspended work for a second shift on Tuesday due to uncertainty about electricity supply from Eskom.  On Monday night, SA’s gold, platinum and diamond underground mines were forced to suspend operations because of an unprecedented reduction of 6,000MW as technical issues and heavy rain affected Eskom’s plants.  As the constraints eased on Tuesday morning, with Eskom reducing its cuts to 4,000MW, most underground mines opted to keep tens of thousands of underground miners on the surface rather than risk having them trapped underground.  Harmony Gold extended the halting of its nine mines on Tuesday after Eskom asked the mining industry to curtail electricity consumption.  “We will resume shifts as soon as Eskom is able to provide us with the assurance that power supply will be more reliable,” said CEO Peter Steenkamp.  Impala Platinum kept its day shift on the surface doing health and safety drills rather than sending them underground.  Sibanye-Stillwater also shut its mines overnight on Monday and did not send the morning shift down at 4am on Tuesday.  AngloGold Ashanti also kept workers on the surface at its Mponeng mine on Monday night.  “Today (Tuesday) Mponeng is operating, and we are complying with the stage 4 load curtailment requirements.  We are able to switch off some of the less critical loads without major impact on safety and operations,” spokesperson Chris Nthite said.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Allan Seccombe at BusinessLive

Merafe Resources issues SOS to shareholders over power cuts

Business Report writes that Merafe Resources on Tuesday issued an SOS to its shareholders, warning that the ongoing power cuts that have forced mining companies to scale down on production and the constrained economic environment would have a negative impact on the future of some of the company’s operations and the wider ferro alloys sector in SA.  Merafe said it made major investments over the last 10 years to modernise operations against rising operating and employment costs, exacerbated by the recent introduction of the carbon tax, but the electricity interruptions could affect its performance.  “The business continues to engage with all stakeholders to determine what measures can be implemented to help alleviate the significant external pressures facing the industry,” the company advised.  Harmony Gold said it canned Tuesday’s day shift and night shift on Monday as the power interruptions led to a strain in operations.  The producer said it opted for the cancellations for the safety of thousands of its employees.  Petra Diamonds said it had also stopped production, hoisting and processing of diamonds at its mines since Monday.  James Wellsted, spokesperson for Sibanye-Stillwater, said its operations had been impacted to varying degrees throughout the last week of load shedding.  Anglo American Platinum said its operations had also been impacted by Eskom’s load shedding.  Spokesperson Jana Marais indicated that operations had critical-control measures to manage risks in the event of power outages.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Dineo Faku at Business Report

Other internet posting(s) in this news category

  • Fury as load shedding blackouts hit small businesses hard, at Cape Argus


ECONOMIC CONTRACTION

Manufacturing production fell for a fifth consecutive month in October

BusinessLive reports that manufacturing production declined for a fifth consecutive month in October, figures from Stats SA revealed on Tuesday.  The October fall of 0.8% from the same month in 2018, reveals a series of contractions not seen since the global recession, when manufacturing shrank for 14 consecutive months between October 2008 and November 2009.  For the year to date, manufacturing activity recorded a decline of 0.2%.  According to Statistics SA, seven of the 10 manufacturing divisions reported negative growth rates year-on-year.  The largest negative contributions came from the wood and wood products, paper, publishing and printing division; the basic iron and steel, non-ferrous metal products, metal products and machinery division; textiles, clothing, leather and footwear; and glass and non-metallic mineral products.  A significant positive contribution was made by the food and beverages division, which rose 4%.  Intense load-shedding by power utility Eskom has contributed to worry that electricity shortage could mean that SA’s economy contracts for the fourth quarter of 2019, after it shrank 0.6% in quarter three.  Two consecutive quarters of contraction would constitute a technical recession.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Lynley Donnelly at BusinessLive


LABOUR MARKET / EMPLOYMENT

Manpower survey shows weakest hiring intentions in five years

Business Report writes that the latest survey by the Manpower Group of hiring intentions for the first quarter of 2020 does not provide any relief for job seekers.  It shows employers looking to add to their staff to be at their weakest level in five years.  The survey was conducted by interviewing a representative sample of some 750 employers, and was based on how employers expect employment to change in the first quarter compared with the current quarter.  It showed that South African employers still intend to add to their staffing levels despite the contraction headlines.  While 10% of employers forecast an increase in payrolls, 8% anticipate a decrease and 81% expect to make no changes.  Once the data is adjusted to allow for seasonal variation, the Outlook stands at +2%, and is the weakest reported in more than five years.  Hiring plans remain relatively stable when compared with the previous quarter, but show a decline of 3 percentage points in comparison with the same period last year.  “As we move into the New Year, the South African economy continues to be affected by subdued economic growth and a sluggish growth outlook.  Policy uncertainty and a high unemployment rate remain a deep concern for local businesses who are looking to the new year with caution when it comes to their spending and hiring strategies,” said Lyndy van den Barselaar, Managing Director of Manpower Group SA.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Helmo Preuss at Business Report


STATE WAGE BILL

Unions froth over government plan for wage freeze, threaten protests

The Citizen reports that Public Service and Administration Minister Senzo Mchunu may be facing the first major battle in his new deployment to the national Cabinet as public sector unions intend to fight his plan to freeze civil servants’ wages.  Having announced salary cuts for Cabinet ministers and members of parliament, Mchunu is planning to extend the process to the entire civil service.  When recently tabling the revised Ministerial Handbook, he said:  “We have taken the position of a freeze in our salaries and have also significantly reduced benefits to the executive in terms of personnel in executive offices, travel, accommodation and security benefits, among others.  We will be engaging with the minister of finance, the relevant ministers of all entities, the relevant national and provincial legislatures and judiciary which all derive budgets from the fiscus to extend similar restrictions to their members and employees.”  But the unions on Tuesday warned about bringing the public service to a standstill by mobilising members and civil society against the plan.  Their action would include a united protest march to parliament when Minister of Finance Tito Mboweni tables the national budget in February next year.  The National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) described Mchunu’s statement on possible wage freezes as “ill-advised” and “nonsensical”.  The union vowed to vehemently reject it and accused Treasury of wasting the money in state coffers by bailing out SOEs.  The SA Federation of Trade Union (Saftu) said it remained opposed to government downsizing, claiming it was not based on any formula to ensure continued provision of services to people.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Eric Naki on page 2 of The Citizen of 11 December 2019


INDUSTRIAL ACTION / STRIKES

Talks between KZN health department and unions over impasse at Durban mortuary to resume

EWN reports that talks were set to resume on Wednesday morning between the KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) Department of Health, the National Education, Health and Allied Workers' Union (Nehawu) and the Public and Allied Workers Union of SA (Pawusa) over the impasse at Durban’s Gale Street mortuary.  Over the past few months, workers have been protesting over issues involving overtime and demands for improved working conditions, thus forcing the department to bring in staff from other sites.  Some families have had to postpone the funerals of their loved ones while the department and unions work to find a solution.  According to union representatives, talks with the provincial health department were starting to yield results.  However, it was not clear whether workers would return to work on Wednesday or be allowed to clock in.  The department's head of department, Sandile Tshabalala, refused to say if the lockout was still in place.  However, Tshabalala said the department wanted the matter resolved.  “We cannot afford to have the people of our province ill-treated simply because of internal squabbles.  We cannot afford to be the ones causing secondary hazards to the services,” he stated, adding that Wednesday’s meeting would chart the way forward.

Read the original of the report in the above regard by Nkosikhona Duma at EWN


MINING LABOUR

Getting unions on mining company boards is the best way to revive SA economy, says Solidarity’s Gideon du Plessis

Gideon du Plessis, general secretary at trade union Solidarity, writes that at last year’s Mining Charter III negotiations, trade unions campaigned for employee representation on company boards.  A clause making provision for such representation was consequently included in the draft charter.  But, the clause was scrapped at the eleventh hour at the insistence of the Minerals Council SA (previously called the Chamber of Mines).  The Department of Mineral Resources (now DMR & Energy) was also uncomfortable with the clause given the fiduciary obligation it would place on employee representatives.  But in the end, pulling the clause was indicative of poor cooperation and trust between role players.  Du Plessis notes that Germany is the world leader when it comes to employee representation on boards, where maturity has paved the way for the democratisation of the workplace and for supervisory boards with equal representation between employees and shareholders.  SA is far behind Germany when it comes to the implementation of co-determination, but Sipho Pityana, president of Business Unity SA (Busa), has made the point that after the appointment of National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) founder James Motlatsi to the AngloGold Ashanti’s board, there was a significant decline in mining mortalities.  Du Plessis notes that SA’s mining sector has to overcome many challenges, though, before employees will get representation on company boards.  But, a progressive mining company that makes provision for employee representation on its board could accelerate workplace maturity by taking such a brave step.

Read Gideon du Plessis’ full article in the above regard at Miningmx


APPOINTMENTS / RECRUITMENT

Comair ditches joint-CEO model after criticism at AGM of the arrangement

BusinessLive reports that Comair, the operator of kulula.com and British Airways in SA, has appointed Wrenelle Stander as group CEO, with immediate effect.  Stander was previously a joint CEO with Glenn Orsmond, who has been appointed CEO of Comair’s Airline Division.  The move, which the company said was part of ongoing restructuring at the aviation company, marks a departure from the joint-CEO model which was criticised by shareholders at the company’s annual general meeting (AGM) on 29 October.  At the AGM, shareholder Danny Tuckwood questioned the wisdom of having two CEOs, saying there were no clearly defined responsibilities for Stander and Orsmond.  Tuckwood also queried how the CEOs would be incentivised.  Comair appointed Stander and Orsmond on 31 July to replace former long-serving CEO Erik Venter.  “The joint-CEO structure introduced a few months back has been discontinued and these appointments should ensure better performance and efficiency in a very competitive airline industry,” Comair chair Lindsay Ralphs indicated.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Siseko Njobeni at BusinessLive


HOURS OF WORK

SA employees work some of the longest hours in the world

BusinessTech reports that data compiled by Oxford University researchers at Our World in Data shows that South African employees work some of the longest hours in the world – but other data published by the group shows that we’re not very productive.  Oxford’s data traces working hours in over 50 countries between 1950 and 2017, showing which countries had the highest average number of hours worked per employee, annually.  In 2017, SA ranked as one of the longest-working nations, recording 2,209 hours per year – on par with countries like Costa Rica, below nations like Mexico, Myanmar and Cambodia.  This aligns with data from the International Labour Organisation (ILO), which also ranks SA as one of top countries for working hours.  However, while ILO data shows that South Africans do put in extra hours, there are many other countries who work harder, and others are simply more productive.  The latest ILO statistics for SA (2018) shows that a significant portion of our labour force of 16.4 million works more than 49 hours a week (21% – or about 3.5 million people).  However, the majority of workers still fall into the 40-48 hour range.  This range is in line with South African labour laws, which puts the maximum normal working time allowed at 45 hours weekly – or nine hours per day – and is the most common range for workers around the world.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard at BusinessTech. Read too, SA has the longest working hours in the world, at OFM


RETIREMENT FUNDS / RISK COVER

Funeral cover fraud a huge challenge for life insurers, with buying and renting of dead bodies a popular practice

BusinessLive reports that rampant fraud remains a challenge for SA life insurers, which detected 3,708 fraudulent and dishonest claims to the value of R1.06bn in 2018.  Although almost down 25% from 2018’s total number of irregular claims (2017 saw 5,026), the value of claims — in 2017 it was R1.13bn — remained almost the same, statistics released this week by the Association for Savings and Investment SA (Asisa) showed.  Donovan Herman, convener of Asisa’s claims standing committee, reported that most of the fraudulent activity in 2018 took place in the funeral insurance space.  Reports from the forensic departments of life insurers showed that buying and renting dead bodies for the purpose of obtaining fraudulent death certificates was a popular modus operandi.  Funeral policies do not require blood tests and medical examinations and are designed to pay out quickly and without hassle when an insured family member dies.  This unfortunately makes it tempting for criminals and dishonest individuals to take out funeral cover for people who do not exist.  According to the statistics, life insurers rejected 1,915 funeral claims worth R176.4m in 2018, of which 1,127 were found to involve fraudulent documentation.  Another 156 fraudulent claims showed syndicate involvement, and in seven cases beneficiaries were found to have caused the death of the policyholder.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard at BusinessLive

Other internet posting(s) in this news category

  • GEPF investments portfolio registers a positive 2.6% growth despite weak SA economy, at BusinessLive


WORKPLACE CORRUPTION / FRAUD

Acting CFO at Mooi River municipality on special leave after allegedly attempting to bribe Auditor-General staffer

The Mercury reports that the acting chief financial officer (CFO) of the Mooi Mpofana Municipality in Mooi River has been placed on special leave following an allegation that she had tried to bribe a staff member from the Office of the Auditor-General (A-G).  The woman was placed on special leave about a month ago by Co- operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) MEC Sipho Hlomuka after A-G Kimi Makwetu raised the matter with him.  Last week Makwetu briefed MPs on incidents of intimidation and inappropriate behaviour directed at his staff in the course of doing their work of auditing municipalities and government entities.  KwaZulu-Natal, the Eastern Cape and Mpumalanga have emerged as hot spots for threats, intimidation and bribery directed at his staff and office.  He called for people identified as being behind the threats and intimidation of auditors to be brought before the national legislature to account for their actions.  Makwetu cited Mpofana Municipality and the uMfolozi Municipality on the North Coast as being the two municipalities in KwaZulu-Natal where there had been incidents.  In the uMfolozi Municipality incident, it was alleged that one of the municipal officials had made xenophobic remarks towards an A-G staff member.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Thami Magubane at The Mercury


OTHER REPORTS

New Chief of the Army Lieutenant General Thabiso Mokhosi dies after one month in job

News24 reports that Lieutenant General Thabiso Mokhosi, Chief of the South African Army, died on Tuesday in a Pretoria hospital following a short illness.  Mokhosi was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant General, allowing him to fill the post of Chief of the Army in October.  Prior to his appointment, he served as the General Officer Commanding of Joint Operations Division.  President Cyril Ramaphosa on Tuesday offered his condolences to Mokhosi's family and friends.  Ramaphosa said the passing of Mokhosi was a heart-wrenching loss to the South African National Defence Force as it came at a time when his dedicated and exemplary service was needed most.  The president has also extended his condolences to the South African Army and the Defence family as a whole.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Riaan Grobler at News24

OTHER NEWS HEADLINES AND ARTICLES

  • How can I get my employer to pay for my car’s wear and tear? at BusinessLive
  • Flying colours for SAA staff (letter to the editor), at BusinessLive
  • Nomgcobo Jiba to start 2020 as a pupil advocate, at BusinessLive

 


Get other news reports at the SA Labour News home page