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, 6 March 2020.


STATE WAGE BILL

Deputy finance minister Masondo says government in ‘serious’ talks with unions over state wage bill

BL Premium reports that according to deputy finance minister David Masondo, the government is having “serious conversations” with labour unions in its quest to cut a wage bill that’s constraining its ability to provide services and avert a credit-rating downgrade.  Speaking at a function on Thursday night, Masondo said:  “We really need to shift our expenditure from consumption and wages.  We are in serious conversations with the labour movement on this matter.”  He claimed that wage settlements agreed in 2010/2011 and then affirmed in 2018 had contributed to government finances being in an unsustainable position.  As a result, the state’s ability to spend on key services such as health, public safety and education was being increasingly “disabled”.  Finance minister Tito Mboweni shocked public sector unions in February when he unveiled a national budget that proposed R261bn in spending cuts over the next three years.  Most of that is expected to come via a reduction in the public-sector wage bill, necessitating the immediate revisiting of a three-year deal that was supposed to run through to 2021.  The ANC’s labour allies have come out strongly against the plan.

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

Cosatu mulls court action if government fails to implement terms of 2018 wage agreement

Sunday Independent reports that the National Treasury hopes a solution will be found on the state wage bill after unions rejected government attempts to block a deal struck two years ago.  Director-general in the Treasury, Dondo Mogajane, informed the joint committees on finance that unions had called for the matter to be dealt with at the Public Service Co-ordinating Bargaining Council.  Finance Minister Tito Mboweni had announced last month that government would cut the wage bill by R160 billion in the next three years, but Cosatu said on Saturday that if the government did not implement the agreement of 2018 by failing to increase wages in April, this would backfire.  The labour federation’s spokesperson Sizwe Pamla said that Cosatu was waiting until next month for the government to implement the increases and that they had indicated to the government there was nothing further to talk about.  He noted that there was no clause in the agreement of 2018 to allow for a review of the wages as agreed upon and suggested that the government should stick to the agreement and implement it.  Pamla added that they could go to court if government failed next month to implement the terms of the agreement.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Siyabonga Mkhwanazi at Independent News

Public sector wage bill cuts might catapult the ruling alliance into chaos

Analyst Mamokgethi Molopyane writes that there is simmering unsettledness within the tripartite alliance, thanks to Finance Minister Tito Mboweni’s announcement of public spending cuts in his budget and President Cyril Ramaphosa’s comments about trimming the public sector wage bill.  Already, public sector unions have raged against Mboweni and Ramaphosa’s announcements, warning government not to change or freeze the extant public service wage agreement of 2018.  The alliance politics can be made or broken here – specifically with regards to Cosatu’s relationship with the ANC because within the federation public sector unions are now the prominent power and influence how issues are dealt with within the alliance.  The three-year 2018 agreement stipulates that the 2020 increases should kick in on 1 April.  In 2018, when the agreement was reached, government conceded that it had significantly exceeded the resources allocated for the compensation of employees in the 2018 budget.  Furthermore, no provision was made for the substantial improvements to salaries and other conditions of service that were agreed on. Simply put, government has to now find resources to accommodate the extra costs.  The question is whether it will be the government or labour that blinks first.  While Cosatu may appear to be a co-opted labour desk at the moment, it still has the capacity to mobilise.  Moreover, this issue might be the catalyst for Numsa and the EFF to rally behind Cosatu and it might also in draw other unions, even those outside the public service.

Read Mamokgethi Molopyane’s article in full at Moneyweb

Rising wage bill threat to services, warns Gauteng finance MEC Nomantu Nkomo-Ralehoko

Sunday Independent reports that Gauteng finance and e-government MEC Nomantu Nkomo-Ralehoko has warned that the escalating public sector wage bill is a threat to service delivery.  On Thursday in the Gauteng legislature she delivered her maiden budget speech, which will see the country’s economic hub spend R457.7-billion in the next three financial years.  Nkomo-Ralehoko promised that premier David Makhura’s administration would tightly manage the wage bill in the province.  “Our view in this regard has always been driven by the realisation that unless we continuously take strong measures to manage the wage bill, the government might not be able to maintain the level of public expenditure on service delivery priorities in future,” Nkomo-Ralehoko indicated.  According to the MEC, the province would continue to ensure that its spending was within sustainable levels, saying that Gauteng has been leading the way for the past few years by ensuring that the provincial wage bill did not exceed 60% of the total budget.  The public sector wage bill has been a contentious issue since the government announced its intention to renegotiate its current agreement with employees at the Public Service Co-ordinating Bargaining Council (PSCBC), sparking outrage among unions.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Loyiso Sidimba at Independent News


ESKOM BAILOUT

Go-ahead for state to use employees’ pension fund to rescue Eskom edges ever closer

City Press reports that the process to pave the way for social partners to give government the go-ahead to tap into the Government Employees Pension Fund (GEPF) to rescue Eskom is gathering steam, with trade federation Cosatu announcing that the process currently hinged on essential details being ironed out between invested partners.  Cosatu’s parliamentary coordinator Matthew Parks last week said:  “We should be able to finalise the Eskom social compact framework agreement in the next few weeks.”  Parks reported that Cosatu and a team tasked by the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) were busy enriching Eskom’s social compact framework agreement so that it would appeal to those who were in a position to greenlight the plan.  “We have made huge progress in our engagements with social partners in government, business, labour and the community. There’s a 90% consensus on the framework agreement and we are confident we will resolve the remaining issues soon,” claimed Parks.  The proposed rescue plan apparently entails “a thorough diagnostic of what contributions, both financially and in terms of responsibility, different social partners would each be contributing” towards the mammoth task of turning around the fortunes of the ailing power utility.  Eskom’s debt sits at more than R450 billion.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Setumo Stone and Juniour Khumalo on page 13 of City Press of 8 March 2020

SA has been down the path of prescribed assets before and history shows how using pension money for Eskom may cut savings

Bloomberg writes that SA has been down the road of forcing retirement funds to invest in state-owned assets before and it cost employers.  But this time, taxpayers and pensioners stand to be the biggest losers.  In the 1950s, the government introduced prescribed assets, which forced funds to invest in bonds of companies like Eskom and Sasol. The policy was abolished by the then apartheid-government in 1989, by which time returns in equities had far outstripped inflation or investments in state-assets.  Labour federation Cosatu is now advocating the use of private pensions alongside those of government workers to rescue Eskom.  Janina Slawski of Alexander Forbes Group, Africa’s largest retirement advisor, indicated:  “If investors are being forced to invest in assets through prescription, the investments will give suboptimal investment outcomes that will not be in the interests of investors.”  She went on to note that pension funds had changed since the advent of democracy in 1994.  “Back then, most employees had defined-benefit funds, which means employers would step in and cover losses for staff. While the government employee fund is a defined-benefit fund, most companies nowadays offer defined-contribution funds, which means their life-savings would be at risk”.  So, every member of a defined contribution fund that produces poorer returns due to prescription will retire, or leave their funds, with less money than they would have in the absence of prescription.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Roxanne Henderson at Moneyweb

Other internet posting(s) in this news category

  • Eskom moves to liquidate Gupta-linked firm Trillian to recover R600m, at TimesLIVE


OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH & SAFETY

Two Hawks members die in shootout with cash-in-transit robbers in North West

News24 reports that two members of the Hawks died in a gun battle with cash-in-transit robbers in the North West province on Thursday.  On Friday, Hawks spokesperson Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi announced the "momentous loss with the death of two members in a confrontation with an armed group of cash in transit robbers".  Three gang members were shot dead and four others arrested during the gun battle.  Mulaudzi said that Special Task Force members engaged suspects around Mahikeng who were in three vehicles.  "The armed gang had shot and forced a cash security van off the road. The suspects were confronted as they blew open the van. The suspects retaliated and took off in different directions. In their attempt to escape, two of the vehicles faced off with members of the Technical Operations Management Section (TOMS).  During the shootout, Detective Warrant Officer Delene Grobler was fatally shot.”  The suspects managed to flee, and a manhunt ensued.  Later in the day, one suspect was tracked and arrested at a Joburg hospital. Immediately thereafter a follow-up operation was launched in Coligny, where the wanted suspects were confronted at a filling station. The suspects retaliated with AK47 rifles, fatally wounding Detective Sergeant Wynand Herbst.  Three suspects were fatally wounded and two seriously injured during the gun battle. Later, a further two suspects were traced to Ventersdorp; however, they managed to escape."

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


MINING LABOUR

Bodies of three miners missing after quake at AngloGold’s Mponeng mine found on Friday

BusinessLive reports that a level 2 magnitude tremor at midday on Thursday killed three miners at AngloGold Ashanti's Mponeng operation.  The tremor initially trapped seven miners 3.5km below ground at the mine near the town of Carletonville.  Four were quickly rescued, some with broken limbs but no life-threatening injuries.  Rescue teams searched for the three missing miners during the afternoon and through the night.  “The bodies of our three colleagues have now been found. Two of these bodies have ... been recovered and are being brought to surface by rescue crews. The third body is currently being recovered,” AngloGold said on Friday afternoon.  All work, apart from essential services, was stopped at the mine.  The mine had a stellar safety record up to Thursday, recording 698 days of operations without a fatality.  The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) said on Friday that companies should invest more in “safety systems and infrastructure”.  The union added that mining houses “should face greater accountability through stronger regulation and enforcement by the DMRE.”

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

Mine is starving striking Lanxess workers, claims union

Sowetan reported on Friday about a three-week-long underground sit-in by a group of 142 mineworkers staged to demand the dismissal of management. They have accused senior managers at the mine of conflict of interest in that their own companies were providing services at the places where they worked.  The mineworkers from Lanxess Chrome Mine in Rustenburg, North West, refused to resurface from underground after attempting on 13 February to meet with the mine's CEO to express their grievances. According to the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa), the mine has stopped families and colleagues from delivering food to the workers underground.  "There are 142 of them. They can't leave until the mine decides to meet us and settle the issues of corruption that have made it difficult for us to work things out but they're being arrogant and stubborn," said Numsa shop steward Pule Majelenyane.  He reported that an additional 126 mineworkers were on the surface and on the premises of the mine and were refusing to leave until their demands were met.  Lanxess CEO Leon Richardson indicated that the mine had consulted with nutritional specialists and decided to supply the striking miners with an approved balanced diet. "The food supply commenced on February 28. As a health and safety measure, Lanxess also ensured that independently prepared food is no longer allowed underground," he said.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Tankiso Makhetha and Noxolo Majavu at SowetanLive

Minerals Council says mining industry is ready to respond to Covid-19

Mining Weekly reports that with the first case of coronavirus, or Covid-19, confirmed in SA, the Minerals Council SA (MCSA – previously called the Chamber of Mines) has emphasised the importance of mitigating measures that need to be implemented in the mining industry.  In early February, the council provided its members with material, available in English, Afrikaans, Zulu and Sesotho, on such measures.  Moreover, as concern around the disease intensified, the MCSA and its members have continued to monitor the situation globally and nationally; to engage and align fully with the National Institute for Communicable Disease's (NCID's) planning for business and occupational health settings; and to develop plans to reduce and mitigate its impact.  According to the MCSA, the mining sector has special circumstance that could make it vulnerable to the transmission of infectious diseases such as Covid-19 as employees congregate in areas of work and travel in close proximity.  Meanwhile on Thursday, the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) questioned the readiness of mining houses to deal with the inherent dangers of especially working areas in mines, given the confinement of large groups of workers.  It called on mining houses to urgently convene a summit for the sector, to ensure continuous evaluation of risks and concomitant action by all stakeholders.

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

Exxaro appoints first-ever female mining manager

Mining Weekly reports that diversified miner Exxaro Resources has appointed Tamara Qwatekana as the company’s first ever female mining manager.  She will be based at Exxaro’s digital connected mine in Belfast, Mpumalanga.  Qwatekana was previously the company’s first female superintendent at its Grootgeluk operation, in Limpopo.  In a statement published on Friday, Qwatekana reflected on being a woman working in the mining sector. “To me, women empowerment means giving women opportunities and holding them to the same standards of accountability as their male colleagues. Women empowerment is proving, beyond doubt, that we can accomplish anything we set our minds to and knowing that the standards didn’t have to be lowered to ‘accommodate’ us”.  She went on to note:  “Diversity goes beyond hiring a young black woman. It also means creating an environment where a diverse workforce can thrive.”  Belfast mine people operations manager Mandla Motau said Exxaro was fast-tracking many women through succession planning processes, and was ensuring that adequate support was provided to them.  He added that Exxaro “prioritises females for training opportunities”, such as engineering learnerships, internships and professionals-in-training programmes to create a sufficient female talent pool.

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

Other labour / community posting(s) relating to mining

  • Homage to honour Coalbrook victims long overdue, on page 7 of Sunday Independent of 8 March 2020


LABOUR AND POLITICS

DA accuses ANC of looting Joburg coffers by reversing insourcing of workers

ANA reports that the Democratic Alliance (DA) on Sunday accused the African National Congress (ANC) of being on a mission "to loot" Johannesburg's coffers by reversing the insourcing of workers.  DA Gauteng MPL Sergio Isa dos Santos said in a statement that they were not surprised by the ANC-led City’s administration’s intention to reverse the insourcing of security guards and cleaners.  He went on to note that the DA-led multiparty administration had insourced over 2,000 security guards and cleaners “so as to ensure their job security as well as their access to medical aid and pensions."  Also, the insourced employees were consequently earning a market-related salary.  "The ANC’s claim that the process was not done legally and that more people were employed than was initially on the books is not true. Furthermore, this action by the ANC administration once again highlights that they care little about the needs of those providing services to the municipality and are only interested in lining the pockets of cadres," Dos Santos stated.

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


RETRENCHMENTS / JOB CUTS

Court finds against unions and rules that Telkom can go ahead with retrenchments

The Citizen reports that Telkom has been given the go-ahead to continue its retrenchment process after the Labour Court on Thursday dismissed an application launched by two unions for an urgent interdict to pause it.  The application was launched by the SA Communication Union (Sacu) and the Communication Workers Union (CWU).  They went to court last month after Telkom started offering staff voluntary exit packages.  This followed the telecoms company’s announcement in January that 3,000 jobs were at risk.  Sacu’s Ashley Englund claimed in an affidavit that offers to staff were made without the unions having been properly consulted the unions first.  But Judge Robert Lagrange found that it was not Telkom, but the unions that were responsible for erecting the “stumbling block to consultations proceeding”.  He noted that in the unions’ view, it would be premature to discuss alternatives without having concluded discussions on the rationale for retrenching.  But Telkom contended that because of the significant impact that voluntary terminations could have on the ultimate need for any forced retrenchments, it made good sense to deal with that at the start of the process to reduce the scale of potential retrenchments.  The judge found that “even though there may be rational arguments for delaying the offer of VSPs [voluntary severance packages], that does not mean a party should refuse to discuss them altogether unless its proposal on the timing of such offers is accepted”.  The court dismissed the unions’ application.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Bernadette Wicks at The Citizen

Government forges ahead with plans to trim staff at diplomatic missions

BusinessLive reports that the government is forging ahead with plans to trim the size of its diplomatic missions as it battles to cut costs and return SA to financial health.  Without providing timelines, international relations minister Naledi Pandor said in parliament last week that her department was undertaking a process of rationalisation of its foreign missions.  “Staff reductions have been introduced as part of this process, the department has established a task team on the ‘Repositioning of SA’s Global Presence’. The task team has produced a draft report with a set of recommendations. The draft is being considered,” Pandor indicated.  According to budget documents tabled in parliament in February, an estimated 45.6% (R9.8bn) of the Department of International Relations & Co-operation’s total expenditure over the medium term is earmarked for compensation of employees. Spending on compensation of employees is expected to increase at an average annual rate of 5.9%.  An analysis by the Treasury found that SA’s cost-of-living allowances for its diplomatic staff were 60% higher than those paid to US staff and 40%-50% higher than those for UN staff, who also pay their own accommodation, unlike SA staff.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Bekezela Phakathi at BusinessLive

 


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