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
Tuesday, 28 July 2020.


REMUNERATION IN THE TIME OF A PANDEMIC

Study shows that employers have opted for salary cuts rather than job cuts

TimesLIVE reports that when given the choice, most employers who have had to make tough financial decisions amid the coronavirus pandemic have chosen pay cuts over retrenchments.  This was shown in a series of studies conducted by remuneration and HR consultancy 21st Century aimed at understanding changes in the workplace since the start of the outbreak.  “Where there is financial pressure and crisis management, a large percentage of respondents said they were reducing pay as a preferred choice to avoid retrenchments.  There has also been a marked escalation in increase freezes, compared to previous years,” the consultancy reported.  Meanwhile, working remotely seems to be the common trend:  “The results indicate that a large number of organisations currently have more than half of their employees working remotely due to lockdown, and that employees are typically supplied with the necessary tools of trade.  Where employees are able to effectively work at home, the majority of organisations have neither unpaid nor partial pay periods; and it seems that organisations are returning to normal payment as work is resumed and revenue flows into the organisation.”  Some employers are still in limbo over how to treat the leave taken by an employee as a result of contracting the virus and some allowed for employees to use their annual leave once their sick leave was exhausted.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Naledi Shange at TimesLIVE. Read too, Covid work shift doesn’t mean death of the office, at Business Times

People are turning to retirement savings to cope with lockdown, but most don't have enough

Fin24 reports that as the extended Covid-19 lockdown takes its toll, retirement savings are being viewed by some as a kitty to survive the lockdown that has wreaked havoc in many households' finances.  But, but the problem is that often, there isn't enough saved up to begin with.  According to Sanlam Employee Benefits, which conducted its annual retirement survey in the middle of the lockdown this year, almost a fifth (16%) of retirement funds members requested access to their savings.  "The reality [is] that many workers need support due to the loss of income or reduced earnings," noted Sanlam Corporate's Rigitte van Zyl.  Sanlam's statistics are in line with Statistics SA data, which showed that 51.7% of people who reported income reduction have already looked at the option of accessing their savings to survive.  The popular option by people who remain employed is to temporarily suspend retirement contributions.  Sanlam has also explored how allowing people to make once-off withdrawals and allowing people to take up to R1 million instead of the current R500,000 in cases of retrenchments or death of employees could help.  But, unfortunately most people don't even have enough money to take advantage of these relief measures.  Sanlam's administration data shows that about 50% of members have fund values that are less than R50,000 in their accounts, while only about 10% have balances greater than R500,000.

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

Samwu marches in Ekurhuleni to demand same 6.25% wage hike as in Tshwane

BusinessLive reports that emboldened by the above inflation wage increase the SA Municipal Workers’ Union (Samwu) got in Tshwane last week, its members marched on the Ekurhuleni metro offices on Monday demanding a similar increase.  Deputy general secretary Dumisane Magagula said that their protests would “spread like wildfire” across the country if municipal bosses did not stick to a multi-year wage agreement entered into at the SA Local Government Bargaining Council in 2018.  Municipalities in the Eastern Cape, Free State and Mpumalanga have already implemented the 6.25% wage agreement.  On Friday, Samwu flexed its muscle and successfully forced administrators of the Tshwane metro to implement the 6.25% increase stipulated in the 2018 agreement.  Magagula warned those municipalities that intended to disregard the agreement that they were “skating on thin ice” and were at risk of undermining “sacred” collective bargaining agreements.  “We know the impact of Covid-19 on municipal finances, but we don’t believe these institutions have run out of money to implement these increases,” claimed Magagula.  Economist Azar Jammine commented:  “They are demanding a wage increase that is way above inflation.  The 6.25% they are demanding is three times the inflation rate at the moment.  They don’t seem to care that their brothers and sisters in the private sector are losing their jobs.”

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Luyolo Mkentane at BusinessLive

Analysts divided over Samwu’s insistence on implementation of 6.5% pay increase

The Citizen reports according to some analysts, it is unjustified and unfair for the SA Municipal Workers’ Unions (Samwu) to insist on the implementation of salary hikes when economic circumstances have changed because of the Covid-19 pandemic, but others disagree.  In terms of a multi-year wage agreement struck in the SA Local Government Bargaining Council (Salgbc) in 2018, municipal officials were scheduled to receive a 6.25% wage increase with effect from 1 July 2020.  Analyst Dr Ralph Mathekga commented that, although there was a commitment by local government at the Salgbc for the salary increases, the circumstances did not allow for that due to financial constraints emanating from the pandemic.  “Given that people are losing their jobs and some are taking salary cuts, it is unreasonable for Samwu to insist on the initial wage agreement, ignoring the changing circumstances,” he observed.  Economist Dr Dawie Roodt agreed:  “This is wrong. Government is scared of organised labour. Who are the municipal unions to demand an increase when other workers are taking salary cuts? This is unfair and unjustified.”  However, political analyst Xolani Dube came out in support of the union’s action. He said:  “Samwu and their members [have] got the right to fight for what is due to them. There is nothing wrong with what they are doing […] There is no revenue, but you can’t blame workers for that.”  In his view, it was a contradiction that government could afford to increase social grants and pay the unemployed special grants, but municipalities refused to pay increases for their workers.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Eric Naki on page 2 of The Citizen of 28 July 2020

Red flags over Durban’s massive Covid-19 overtime bill for metro police and security staff of nearly R100m a month

Mail & Guardian reports that massive overtime claims by eThekwini metro police and security staff during the Covid-19 lockdown are costing the city nearly R100-million a month.  According to a council report on the overtime spending, security staff and metro police have been doubling their salaries during the lockdown by claiming up to 300 hours overtime a month.  The city’s overtime cap is set at 40 hours a month per employee.  According to the report, one bodyguard who normally earned R20,000 a month racked up R50,000 in overtime during April, taking home R70,000 for the month.  Members of the city’s land-invasion unit, which falls under the metro police, claimed 260 hours a month in overtime, despite working overtime only on weekends.  This meant that they worked 32-hour days on Saturday and Sunday.  Last month, a full council meeting signed off on R99-million in Covid-19-related police overtime for May in its special-adjustment budget.  The increase was attributed to the large number of roadblocks and compliance operations, as well as a delay in filling vacant posts.  Democratic Alliance councillor Chris van den Berg said that complaints of fraud and abuse relating to overtime have not been dealt with.  “How could any person in authority routinely sign off on this much overtime?’’ he asked.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Paddy Harper at Mail & Guardian


LOCKDOWN RESTRICTIONS ON ECONOMIC ACTIVITY

Taverns want nearly R700m from the government to mitigate ban on alcohol sales

BL Premium reports that the National Liquor Traders Council (NLTC) has called on the government to grant each of country’s 34,500 taverns a once-off payment of R20,000 to mitigate the effect of the ban on alcohol sales.  This would cost the state R690m.  The ban on the sale of liquor, announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa earlier in July, is set to lead to a big drop in revenue for the state.  Already the local industry has applied for a deferment of the payment of about R5bn in excise duties for July and August.  The liquor industry, which is worth R140bn and contributes 3% to SA’s GDP, says the ban will lead to a jobs bloodbath.  The sector is responsible for 1-million jobs.  The first prohibition, which was imposed when SA entered the strict lockdown at the end of March, lasted about 10 weeks and cost the liquor industry about R18bn in lost revenue and 100,000 jobs.  NLTC convener Lucky Ntimane said the new ban threatened the livelihoods of more than 34,500 tavern owners, with a knock-on effect that could see more than 500,000 people facing economic ruin.  Ntimane also announced establishment of a relief programme that will be seeking to raise R100m through industry partners and the public to support taverns over a two- to three-month period by providing food parcels and other necessary supplies.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Bekezela Phakathi at BusinessLive (paywall access only). Read too, Taverns hit hard by liquor ban, at Mail & Guardian

Other internet posting(s) in this news category

  • Owners of event companies battling to survive as lockdown has killed business, at The Star


COVID-19 HEALTH & SAFETY

Four North West health professionals die in the space of a week due to Covid-19

News24 reports that four North West healthcare professionals have died in the space of a week, according to the province's health department.  In a statement on Monday, MEC Madoda Sambatha said Covid-19 had claimed the lives of the "much needed health workforce" of two doctors and two nurses.  "We have sadly learnt of the passing of Dr Lomalisa Litenye and Florah Makama. As if that was not enough, the province lost two nurses over the past week. We are saddened by the loss of these health professionals," Sambatha said.  Litenye was a well-known health practitioner in Mahikeng, and specialised as a gynaecologist and obstetrician.  Makama was a clinical psychologist.  Both were based in Mahikeng.  The two nurses were based at Dr Ruth Segomotsi Mompati District and Ngaka Modiri Molema District respectively. They were not named.

Read the original of the above report by Azarrah Karrim at News24

Other internet posting(s) in this news category

  • Traffic officers tested, screened at FNB stadium, at SowetanLive


INDUSTRIAL ACTION / STRIKES

City of Tshwane gets interdict to halt disruption of services by striking Samwu members

TimesLIVE reports that the City of Tshwane has obtained an interdict from the Labour Court in a bid to stop the disruption of services by striking members of the SA Municipal Workers Union (Samwu).  According to the City, the ongoing labour dispute was having a “devastating” impact on the provision of service delivery across all seven regions in the municipality.  Angry workers damaged the Tshwane municipality head office during protest action last week.  They also emptied bins and strew litter across the CBD.  Workers who reported for duty in certain regions were allegedly physically threatened and their offices forcefully closed by striking workers.  The City pointed out that it had conceded to the workers’ demand of payment of the annual wage increment, but due to the dire straits of its finances, it “cannot afford to pay the workers their outstanding benchmarking monies at this juncture.”  The interdict prevents Samwu members from interfering with the traffic flow in the CBD; damaging property; or threatening, manhandling or assaulting any city employee or contractor.  Tshwane head administrator Mpho Nawa urged striking workers to comply with the order and pleaded with the parties to return to the negotiation table.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Nomahlubi Jordaan at TimesLIVE


PROTEST ACTION

Nehawu announces ‘massive’ protest action in healthcare sector on 21 August over lack of PPE

EWN reports that the National Education, Health and Allied Workers' Union (Nehawu) on Tuesday announced that it would be conducting massive protest action in the health sector.  With Covid-19 cases rapidly increasing, the union is concerned about the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) in public hospitals.  Nehawu's general secretary, Zola Saphetha, said that the stay away would be on 21 August “in the form of a complete withdrawal of our labour. Unfortunately, that will happen at the peak of this virus. However, part of our plan will be to also mobilise in communities and we will be interfacing with society members on our plight and experiences."  Delivering the outcomes of a fact-finding mission by the union’s national bearers on the state of readiness by government to deal with the pandemic, Saphetha said they had uncovered a general shortage in PPE at the facilities they had visited.  He added:  “In all institutions, there are no regular briefings to the labour representatives on infections, cases of isolation, recoveries, and fatalities.  Across the board, we have found no branch of the union that has expressed satisfaction with the management’s consultation process.”

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Sifiso Zulu at EWN


FARMING LABOUR

Agriculture blossoming, with employment up 3.3% over last year

Moneyweb reports that while most of the SA economy shrivels, agriculture is booming and was up 27.8% in the first quarter of 2020.  This contrasted with the 2% contraction in the overall economy in the same quarter, during which agriculture made a 0.5% positive contribution to GDP.  The number employed in the sector is 865,000, which is 3.3% higher over the same period last year, and 8% higher than in 2008.  Expected good rainfalls, bigger crops and a relatively weak exchange rate augur well for the rest of the year.  Mordor Intelligence forecasts growth of 4.5% a year in SA agriculture over the five years to 2025, fuelled by population growth which in turn will drive demand for maize and wheat.  The Covid-19 lockdown was not without is downside, though the impact was muted.  The shutdown of the hospitality sector meant traders were unable to sell fresh fruit to fast-foods and restaurants, and farmers had to waste short-life vegetables because demand from regular customers dried up.  Diesel shortages due to the backlog at refineries immediately after the lockdown also impacted on some of the producer operations.  “However, the sector was overall minimally impacted as most could operate and export due to being declared an essential service,” noted Paul Makube, senior agricultural economist at FNB Agri-business.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Ciaran Ryan at Moneyweb. Read too, Reuters survey shows 2020 maize crop expected to increase by 37%, at Moneyweb


LABOUR MARKET

SA lost 3,000 jobs in first quarter of 2020, but impact of lockdown not yet felt

Fin24 reports that Statistics SA announced on Tuesday in its latest Quarterly Employment Statistics (QES) bulletin that total employment in SA's non-agricultural formal sector fell by 3,000 between December 2019 and March 2020.  The figures published on Tuesday did not include the impact of the national lockdown brought in to stem the spread of Covid-19.  According to Stats SA, there were 10,234,000 people employed in SA's non-agricultural sector in December 2019, and 10,231,000 in March 2020.  The decrease in employment was due to falls in trade (-17,000), construction (-14,000) and manufacturing (-2,000).  However, there were increases in employment in community services (17,000); business services (8,000), mining (3,000) and transport (2,000).

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Jan Cronje at Fin24


BARGAINING COUNCILS

Security firms take labour minister to court to avoid bargaining council’s 95c/hour pay rise for guards

Sowetan reports that more than a dozen private security companies have taken Department of Employment and Labour (DEL) Minister Thulas Nxesi to court in a bid to avoid paying their employees a R0.95c per hour increase.  The increase, which was meant to come into effect in March, was agreed upon in the National Bargaining Council for the Private Security Sector (NBCPSS) in November last year and promulgated into law by Nxesi in February.  The promulgation meant that the agreement between unions representing security guards and employers represented in the council would also be binding on all security companies in the country.  The agreement stipulates that security guards, who are among the lowest paid employees, be paid an increase of R0.95c per hour.  But now 20 private security companies, mainly BBBEE firms that provide security to government buildings and entities, have approached the Labour Court to get the extension to them as nonparties declared unlawful.  They argued in court papers filed in May that they cannot be bound by an agreement reached in the NBCPSS and have asked the court to declare Nxesi’s extension of the collective agreement to nonparties invalid and unlawful.  The DEL has instructed its lawyers to oppose the matter.  The unions in the sector have resolved that they will oppose the court challenge and also protest to the departments which are guarded by the companies concerned.  Trade union Satawu’s Philemon Bhembe commented that it was very disappointing that black security companies were behaving like “enemies of progress”.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Isaac Mahlangu on page 4 of Sowetan of 28 July 2020


SAA RESCUE PLAN

Business rescue practitioners announce that all conditions for SAA rescue plan have now been met

Fin24 reports that the business rescue practitioners (BRPs) of South African Airways (SAA) announced on Tuesday that all the conditions in the embattled airline's business rescue plan have been fulfilled.  There was, however, still no indication of where the R10.3 billion funding to implement the rescue plan would come from.  So far government has only committed to "mobilising" funds.  The most crucial amount to start off with would be about R800 million for post-commencement creditors, about R2.2 billion for voluntary severance and retrenchment packages and about R2 billion for working capital.  The BRPs said in a letter to affected parties that they were currently finalising remaining outstanding administrative issues before filing a notice of substantial implementation of the rescue process as required by the Companies Act.  Peter Attard Montalto of Capital Markets Research at Intellidex said he remained "deeply sceptical" that anything would emerge of any meaningful size or scope.  "Whilst the tortuous process of the business rescue practitioners now comes to an end, the airline still has no money and unions are getting restless.  Attention will now turn to the fact that air travel will be severely restricted and reaching break-even in three years will take major additional funding that banks and others will be unwilling to provide," he observed.

Read the original of the above report by Carin Smith at Fin24

 


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