news shutterstockIn our roundup of weekend news, see
summaries of our selection of South African
labour-related stories that appeared since
Friday, 21 February 2020.


TOP STORY – STATE WAGE BILL

Mboweni’s plans to pare back public sector pay packet to be revealed in budget this week

Business Times writes that this week finance minister Tito Mboweni is expected to unveil plans to trim the burgeoning public sector wage bill, which accounts for more than a third of the government's expenditure.  If left unresolved, this would be among the factors that could drag SA's last remaining investment-grade rating into junk.  The National Treasury has attempted to slow the growth of civil servant wage increases, which crowd out other critical expenditure, but it has avoided the retrenchments that could deliver, far more quickly, a savings target of R150bn over the next three years.  The government and public sector unions will begin wage talks in July or August for the next three-year wage agreement from 2021.  Citibank SA said last week that adjusting compensation growth in line with a nominal GDP growth forecast of at least 5% could save the government about R65bn.  Although projections appeared to be above inflation now, in the longer term basing salary increases on nominal growth would be less costly.  Gina Schoeman, Citi's SA chief economist, said that if the Treasury's October forecast of 6%-6.5% growth in nominal GDP was applied over the medium term to public sector wage hikes, the saving could be about R8bn.  "All you'd have to say to the unions is we're not going to put it in line with CPI [the consumer price index], we just want to put it in line with more realistic nominal growth figures.  In other words, compensation is growing in line with the nominal economy.  That's really a saving."  Cosatu spokesperson Sizwe Pamla said there was no condition binding negotiations to CPI.  But any other method the government wanted to use would have to first be negotiated.  "They will have to table it to the relevant platform and make solid arguments on it," he indicated.  The most recent agreement contained one of the lowest settlements over the past decade.

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

Other internet posting(s) in this news category

  • Focus on public sector wage bill is a misguided austerity drive, says Cosatu, on page 19 of The Sunday Times of 23 February 2020


OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH & SAFETY

Healthcare providers retrench, halt services due to delay with Compensation Fund payments

Fin24 reports that some healthcare providers who work with the Compensation Fund (CF) have started to retrench staff while others have halted operations, following six months of not being able to log claims with the Fund.  The CF, which is public entity under the Department of Employment and Labour (DEL), administers compensation relating to the illness, disablement or death of workers caused by occupational injuries or diseases.  Several individuals and associations representing allied healthcare workers who render support services like physiotherapy and occupational therapy released a statement on Saturday indicating that practices were closing down because the CF has not provided payments for services October 2019.  "Practices have steadily been shutting their doors since October 2019, but the situation has become dire as of January 2020, when service providers who manage injury on duty claims on behalf of private practices started informing their clients that they were unable to settle claims," the statement indicates.  Bever Donker of the SA Society of Physiotherapists (SASP) said this problem started in mid-September when the DEL migrated to a new system that health practitioners must use to lodge CF claims.  "The new system has never worked.  Employers aren’t able to register their workers who need compensation, and many of our members have not been able to put their claims through.  There are a few practitioners who have retrenched people already," said Donker.  Physiotherapists, private hospitals, pharmacies and x-ray establishments who initially carried on seeing CF patients without getting payment are apparently unable to carry the costs anymore and have started turning them away.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Londiwe Buthelezi at Fin24

Manager, employee get into fight at supermarket in Mbombela

Sowetan reports that a store manager and employee at a Spar store in Mbombela‚ Mpumalanga‚ have opened cases of assault against each other after an argument‚ caught on video‚ turned into a scuffle.  In the video‚ circulated on social media‚ a shouting woman is seen grappling with a man and then being restrained and carried away by a security guard.  It is unclear exactly what led up to the confrontation based on the clip alone.  Provincial police spokesperson Brig Leonard Hlathi confirmed that the incident had taken place at a Spar store on Tuesday last week.  He indicated:  “Police are investigating two cases of common assault in relation to an incident which took place on February 18 2020 at about 3pm in one of the shops at Courtside Shopping Complex.  According to information at police disposal, an argument between a manager and an employee started and it led to a physical altercation.  The manager and the employee laid charges of common assault against each other at Nelspruit SAPS.”  No arrests have been made.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Kgaugelo Masweneng on page 10 of Sowetan of 21 February 2020. View the video clip at Daily Sun

Other internet posting(s) in this news category

  • Heavy sentence for parolee who bludgeoned, stabbed and burnt police administrative clerk, at News24
  • Double life sentences handed to three killers of Gauteng cop and tavern owner, at News24
  • St Albans prisoner dies after incident in which he stabbed warden six times, at News24
  • Two occupants killed when tanker truck overturned on N11 outside Middelburg on Sunday, at News24


MINING LABOUR

Mining industry urged to create specific safety guidelines for women

Mining Weekly reports that Pebetse Mabaso, social labour plan manager at integrated resources group Tharisa, has called on the SA mining industry to create specific safety guidelines for women in mining.  Concerns about the safety of women in the industry were a recurring theme at the eleventh yearly ‘Women in Mining’ conference, held in Midrand last week.  Mabaso told delegates that women were often faced with sexual harassment and violence in underground operations, as well as verbal abuse, physical assault, rape and sometimes even murder.  Another significant challenge for women in the industry was the lack of appropriately-designed equipment, personal protective equipment and tools – which were often designed and manufactured with men in mind.  Mabaso suggested that safety guidelines for women in mining should result in better lighting in underground working areas and ensure the provision of safe ablution and changing facilities.  “The benefits of having zero harm for women in mining will increase safety, compliance and productivity, the company’s bottom-line, and have a positive impact on national employment,” Mabaso averred.  Social interaction and integration dialogues between men and women, as well as diversity workshops, could be the drivers to get the ball rolling on these changes, she told conference delegates.

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


ESKOM BAILOUT

Cosatu eyes UIF and unclaimed miners’ retirement funds for Eskom bailout

City Press reports that trade union federation Cosatu is exploring two more urgent interventions which it thinks could help reduce power utility Eskom’s spiralling debt.  The first is to ask the government to “tap into billions of rands in unclaimed mineworkers’ retirement funds” and the second is to “use funds from the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF)”.  The proposals follow hot in the heels of the federation’s contentious initial suggestion that the government should consider tapping into its Government Employees’ Pension Fund to steady the power utility’s debt.  Cosatu spokesperson Sizwe Pamla pointed out that there had been a “gross misrepresentation” of its initial proposal that the government should consider tapping into the pension fund.  “Unlike what some have reported, we [as Cosatu] do not want the Public Investment Corporation [which administers the GEPF] to contribute the entire R454 billion.  We have been in talks with the government and the private sector to make it clear to them that we expect the government and business to contribute towards Eskom’s debt and then the shortfall would come from the pension fund.  Beyond this, we have proposed that some money should also come from the UIF to contribute to rescuing Eskom,” Pamla explained.  On the UIF, he said there had been talks with union members “to sell them the idea of using the fund”.  Pamla went on to say:  “We have explored the possibilities of using retirement benefits, particularly those of mine workers who cannot be found for one reason or another, mainly because some were from Mozambique, some from Zimbabwe or some from the Eastern Cape.  This money is growing and it has a surplus.”  In 2017 the Presidency noted that the unclaimed mineworkers’ retirement benefits were about R10 billion “in various pension and provident funds”.  The money was said to have dated back to the 1970s.  Pamla argued that instead of the money sitting with provident and pension fund administrators, it ought to be invested into worker-related matters, such as trying to save Eskom and attempting to keep the utility’s 46,000 workers employed.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Juniour Khumalo at City Press


BUSINESS RESCUE

Government 'must come to the party' over rescuing SA Express, transport union Satawu insists

Fin24 reports that the SA Transport and Allied Workers’ Union (Satawu) has slammed the "hands-off approach" of the Department of Public Enterprises (DPE) regarding the business rescue of state-owned airline SA Express.  Albeit at President Cyril Ramaphosa's behest, state-owned flag carrier SA Airways (SAA) went into voluntary business rescue in December 2019.  But, state-owned regional airline SA Express was forced into business rescue in February this year after a successful high court application by one of its creditors.  Satawu spokesperson Zanele Sabela said on Friday:  "We are wondering: where is the DPE?  Their silence is deafening.  Time is of the essence.  The opportunity to engage is now.  The DPE needs to say what its position is on SA Express.  The DPE must come to the party.  They must act."  According to Satawu, the DPE "did not bother" to appear in court during the business rescue application to support SA Express, despite having been named as one of the respondents in the application.  Satawu went on to observe:  "Of critical importance are the funds required to expedite the business rescue.  Whereas money was allocated to rescue SAA, no funds have been set aside in SA Express' instance, mainly because it (the business rescue) was involuntary.  The BRPs (business rescue practitioners) have already indicated to the DPE that R350 million will be required to save the airline.  But to date they have had no response."  According to Satawu, the BRPs have presented three rescue options for the DPE to choose from, the choice of which will then determine the BRPs' next move.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Carin Smith at Fin24


STAFFING / VACANCIES

Staffing at correctional services likened to a ‘leaking bucket’

Sunday Independent reports that the Correctional Services Department has indicated that its situation was like a “leaking bucket” as it was battling to fill the number of vacant posts to compensate for the staff leaving its employ.  Deputy chief commissioner for human resources Patrick Mashibini said on Friday:  “This has had serious negative effects on the compensation of employees (COE) budget, which seems to be on an increasing trajectory throughout the financial years.  As a result of this negative trajectory, the department is continuously underspending on COE to where at the end of the financial year a huge amount of unspent budget is returned back to National Treasury.”  He told MPs in a briefing on the filling of senior management service (SMS), occupational specific dispensation and non-SMS posts that it was feared that if the situation continued, National Treasury would continue to reduce their COE budget to a point where delivery of services could suffer.  The trend, has been consistent since the 2014/15 financial year.  A report showed an average of 22 vacancies at director level and eight at deputy commissioners level.  The SMS vacancy rate for salary levels 13 to 16 stood at 49 as of 3 February and there were 848 non-SMS posts to be filled nationally.  Mashibini put the blame on the centralisation of recruitment and selection of senior management in the head office.  He said there was disappearance of some appointment memorandums leading to re-advertisements of posts and disputes lodged against pending appointments.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Mayibongwe Maqhina at Independent News. Read too, Correctional services faces scores of civil claims amid personnel drain, at BusinessLive

Western Cape premier Alan Winde says 1,100 new cops not enough

News24 reports that Western Cape Premier Alan Winde said on Thursday in his State of the Province Address (Sopa) that despite an additional 1,100 new police officers having been deployed in the province, it still did not have enough men and women in blue.  He stated:  “The police's own stats prove this.  That is why we need to bolster our own safety services.  But we are adamant that our personnel will work in co-operation, hand in hand, with the national police in our province.”  Winde said the province's safety plan focused on increasing boots on the ground and reducing violence.  In the last year, 500 out of an eventual 3,000 new law enforcement officers had been deployed to the most crime-ridden neighbourhoods in partnership with the City of Cape Town.  "Because violence is so complex, and because we want public funds to be spent on interventions that have the most impact in making people's lives safer, all our safety plan decisions will be informed by data and evidence, and will focus first on where crime is worst.  We will not be afraid to adapt and change if our data and evidence shows we can do better," Winde said.  He has established a special Safety Cabinet that will meet every six weeks to report back on what work has been done and what has been achieved.  Its first meeting was held last Wednesday and was attended by officials from the City, police, correctional services and justice department.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Tammy Petersen at News24

Ministers, Treasury addressing funding crisis at Stats SA after Statistics Council’s threat to quit

Fin24 reports that Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu had a "productive and congenial" meeting on Sunday with Statistician-General Risenga Maluleke and members of the SA Statistics Council following the latter's threat to resign over a lack of funds for Statistics SA.  Mthembu's spokesperson, Nonceba Mhlauli, indicated that Mthembu, Maluleke and council chair Professor David Everatt would be working with Finance Minister Tito Mboweni and the National Treasury to address "imminent risks" in the statistical system if funding challenges were not addressed.  "The spirit of the meeting was to find common ground to ensure continuity and integrity of the statistical system.  The meeting was productive and congenial," Mhlauli said.  The Council, which endorses data released by Stats SA and advises the statistician-general, had threatened to step down if Stats SA did not receive more funding and fill frozen posts.  In an initial statement issued by David Everatt, it was claimed that the agency's vacancy rate had reached 20%, that some staff were working six- or seven-day weeks, and that the situation had "reached crisis point".  "The South African Statistics Council unanimously call on government to heed our call and inject funds into Stats SA.  If not, Council will withdraw our support for official statistics, and resign," Everatt had warned.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard at Fin24


SUSPENSIONS

Limpopo premier backs down, reinstates spokesperson who was suspended over claims of leaks to EFF

News24 reports that after a week of prevarication, the office of the premier in Limpopo eventually agreed to implement an order by the General Public Service Sector Bargaining Council (GPSSBC) by reinstating government spokesperson Phuti Seloba.  The order, which found his November 2019 suspension to have been illegal and unfair, was issued the week before last.  It was ordered that he should be permitted to resume his duties on Monday, 17 February 2020.  Seloba, accompanied by provincial and regional leaders of the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu), reported for duty on that Monday.  However, upon his arrival the next day, he was denied access to the building, with a notice displayed in the guardhouse that he should not be allowed entry as he was still on suspension.  Nehawu then issued a scathing statement accusing Premier Stan Mathabatha of disregarding institutions and the laws of the country.  Seloba’s suspension followed allegations that since 2017 he had been divulging sensitive information to EFF provincial chairperson Jossey Buthane, among which was that Mathabatha sometimes missed appointments and meetings, including those for which accommodation had been booked, because of alcohol consumption.  On Wednesday, following threat from Nehawu that it would approach the courts, Seloba was allowed to resume his duties.  On Thursday, it was confirmed that Seloba was indeed at work, however he might be transferred to another division within the office of the premier.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Russel Molefe at News24


SEXUAL MISCONDUCT / ABUSE

Sex for jobs scandal rocks Vaal University of Technology

The Star reports that an explosive investigation into the Vaal University of Technology (VUT) has uncovered shocking evidence of a sex for jobs and promotions culture targeting female staff, industrial scale theft, looting and corruption.  In their report, two independent assessors, former Unisa vice-chancellor Professor Barney Pityana and Professor Rocky Ralebipi-Simela, revealed they were approached by some of the victims of the sex for jobs and promotions scandal at VUT, who bravely shared their experiences.  The investigation was conducted by Pityana and Ralebipi-Simela after they were appointed in May last year by then higher education and training minister Dr Naledi Pandor.  The two academics indicated that the culture of abuse of women at VUT was a matter of concern.  ”This comes by way of seeking sexual favours for employment and for promotions from senior managers at the institution.  In practice, it is in the abuse of women when breakaways are organised seemingly in order to make women available to senior managers and executives.  There is a view (though it is hard to prove) that appointments and promotions at the university are achieved through the demand and provision of sexual favours,” the report indicates.  Those who objected to the sex for jobs and promotions culture were ostracised and marginalised, according to the report.”  Pityana and Ralebipi-Simela decided against naming the staff members who had complained and the alleged perpetrators, but instead informed former University of Johannesburg vice-chancellor Professor Ihron Rensburg, who has been VUT’s administrator since August last year.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Loyiso Sidimba at Independent News. Read too, Report uncovers serious leadership issues at VUT, at SowetanLive

Other internet posting(s) in this news category

  • Unisa turns a baleful eye on complaint of sex abuse, at News24


OTHER NEWS HEADLINES AND ARTICLES

  • Limpopo nurse arrested after allegedly posing as lawyer, defrauding patient, at News24
  • Opinion: Get TVET colleges to work first before investing in new campuses, at Mail & Guardian
  • Prasa says its assets won’t be attached as it has paid our attorneys, at Fin24

 


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