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, 23 April 2021.


TOP STORY – WAGE NEGOTIATIONS

Unions declare deadlock in ‘absurd’ public sector wage negotiations

City Press writes that a general strike by public service workers looks set to go ahead as trade unions last week moved to declare a deadlock after the last round of negotiations with the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) failed to yield their desired outcome. Government apparently doubled down on its stance that National Treasury had no money to pay for public sector salary increases. According to the unions, government’s only “revised offer” came in the form of a proposal that funds currently allocated for pay progression, resettlement costs for workers relocated to another province and daily allowances should no longer be paid out. Instead, those funds would be channelled towards the salary increases that were being demanded by public sector workers. The proposal has been described by Public Servants Association’s (PSA’s) Reuban Maleka as “absurd” and amounting “to nothing more than a mere shifting around of funds” to no real benefit for workers. “Labour thus rejected the employer’s offer and jointly indicated that a deadlock had been reached. The dispute resolution processes, as per the Public Service Coordinating Bargaining Council constitutional provisions, will now be followed,” Maleka said. He added that the PSA had advised the union’s more than 235,000 members to prepare for industrial action to secure a decent salary increase and protect existing benefits. The PSA and other trade unions affiliated to Cosatu had tabled a salary increase proposal linked to inflation plus 4%, together with other demands. The National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union’s (Nehawu’s) December Mavuso said that, after failing to reach an amicable solution after 21 days of negotiations, the unions were left with no choice but to declare a deadlock. DPSA Minister Senzo Mchunu, to the frustration of the unions, briefed the media on the eve of the final round of negotiations last week and restated National Treasury’s stance that there was no money for any salary increases.

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

Ramaphosa prepared to cut cabinet, as government moves to appease trade unions in public sector wage negotiations

City Press reports that according to Minister of Public Service and Administration Senzo Mchunu, President Cyril Ramaphosa wants to make the cabinet, which was reduced from 35 members to 28 in 2019, even smaller. The government is also considering doing away with deputy ministers, who have no constitutional role in the government. Fringe benefits of political office bearers and management positions could also be curtailed as part of the government’s proposal to public service unions, according to Mchunu. Trade unions are threatening mass action due to the freezing of salaries in the civil service after years of increases above inflation. “There is a strong feeling in the ruling party that he (Ramaphosa) should reduce the cabinet further, and this is what he is considering,” Mchunu said at a media conference last week. He made a moving plea that public service unions should agree to a 0% increase in salary negotiations that took place in the public service bargaining chamber on Friday. “These are the most difficult negotiations that have been conducted in the chamber due to the weak state of our economy, the fact that we are heading for a fiscal abyss, the way in which Covid-19 has affected us and because we are already behind with salary negotiations due to the delays with the last leg of the previous salary agreement,” Mchunu pointed out. The negotiations lasted all day on Friday and only adjourned at 10.30 on Friday night. Negotiators battled to try find ways to grant increases to government officials without increasing the state’s wage bill. The government’s negotiators made no mention of plans to downsize the cabinet, abolish the posts of deputy ministers or reduce the fringe benefits of management positions, but, according to Mchunu, it was imperative that there should be a “reorganisation of the state”.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Jan De Lange at City Press (paywall access only)

Transnet wage negotiations deadlock, transport union warns of a possible strike

Fin24 reports that wage bargaining talks between Transnet and labour unions have deadlocked, the state-owned logistics company announced on Friday after no agreement was reached in the second round of negotiations. Transnet said the "difficult economic climate", which had seen a decline in the operational and financial performance of the company, made it unable to meet the demands made by the SA Transport and Allied Workers’ Union (Satawu) and the United National Transport Union (Untu). Transnet rejected the unions’ demands and stuck to its position of a 0% increase. Satawu had initially demanded a 12.5% increase, which was later lowered to 10%. A conciliation process will be scheduled for the parties to try to find a solution to the impasse, failing which the unions will be issued with a certificate permitting them to conduct a protected strike. Satawu’s Jack Mazibuko accused Transnet of "negotiating in bad faith", saying the company had failed to take into considerations the efforts made by the workers to keep the company functioning during the Covid-19 lockdown. "We reject the position taken by Transnet and we are now preparing our workers for a possible strike," he indicated.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Sibongile Khumalo at Fin24

Stage is set for substantial consumer inflation leap

The Citizen reports that Statistics SA announced last week that the annual consumer price index (CPI) increased by 0.7% in March to 3.2% from 2.9% in February, paving the way for a substantial increase in inflation. For a country already reeling from a rand under fire, economist Mike Schüssler was very concerned: “In April last year, we had a low inflation and this year we are going to have a bit of a hike since petrol went up and we also had a 15.6% electricity hike.   The CPI for March came as expected but we will find that inflation is going to increase a lot in April and again in July.” Statistics SA reported that the core inflation, which excluded the prices of food, non-alcoholic drinks, fuel and electricity, had reduced to 2.5%, the lowest level since at least 2009. But, annual inflation for food and non-alcoholic beverages edged up to 5.7% in March from 5.2% in February. Products which recorded annual price rises above the 5.7% average included oils and fats, sugar, sweets and desserts, milk, eggs and cheese, fish and meat.   Oils and fat products continued to see large price increases, with an annual rise of 13.4% recorded in March, up from 10.6% in February. The rate in March in this group was the highest since October 2016, as prices climbed across the board, with the largest increases recorded in respect of cooking oil (16.3%), peanut butter (12.4%) and margarine (10%). However, Statistics SA said education inflation was at its lowest annual rate in three decades.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Reitumetse Makwea at The Citizen

Other internet posting(s) in this news category

  • Government is broke, says minister in defence of state’s 0% wage offer, at BusinessLive (paywall access only)
  • Public servant salary freeze proposal gets icy reception, at Daily Maverick
  • Strike looms over wage hike freeze, on page 2 of Sunday Independent of 25 April 2021
  • Cosatu threatens nation-wide strike as wage talks stall, on page 4 of Sunday Times of 25 April 2021


MINING LABOUR

With no end in sight to union impasse, Blyvoor gold mine hit by lost output worth R30m

Daily Maverick reports that in the more than three weeks since protesters shut operations at the Blyvoor gold mine near Carletonville, mine management says R30-million has been lost in production. There is still no end in sight to the impasse, which appears to be rooted in union rivalry. And a worker from another mining company was shot dead execution-style this week near Blyvoor Village, though it is not clear whether the incident was related to the saga at the Blyvoor mine. “Our workers are being intimidated every night and three of our employees were assaulted and forced out of their homes in Blyvoor Village this week, all of their belongings thrown out with them,” a manager stated.   Tensions have been on the boil at the mine since the 2 March murder of Wels Sempe, a company director who was also leader of the Blyvoor Workers’ Union (BWU). He was gunned down while his bakkie was halted at a four-way crossing, in a killing that has all the hallmarks of a hit. Several senior BWU members are in hiding. The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) claims the BWU is a management front that workers have been forced to join. The company in turn alleges the NUM members – notably 60 who have been dismissed for taking part in a wildcat or unprotected strike – have been waging a campaign of intimidation. And in the background are suspicions that illegal miners or zama-zamas are involved. On Thursday, the NUM’s court appeal against the dismissals was postponed until 7 June.   Meantime, Blyvoor management claims that an interdict instructing the police to prevent NUM members from blocking the mine or assaulting or intimidating staff remains unenforced.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Ed Stoddard at Daily Maverick


CORPORATE TRANSFORMATION

Absa insists race was not an issue in CEO’s sudden departure

Business Times reports that Absa chair Wendy Lucas-Bull has defended the banking group against perceptions that its first black CEO, Daniel Mminele, was forced out as a result of clashes with white executives.   She reiterated on Sunday that his departure was a result of differences about the group’s future strategy, and was not due to any lack of commitment to transformation. Absa shocked the market on Tuesday when it announced it had reached an agreement with Mminele that he would step down on 30 April, because “the parties have not managed to achieve alignment in relation to the group’s strategy and culture transformation journey”. The parting of ways with Mminele, a former Reserve Bank deputy governor who joined Absa in January last year, was on a “no fault” basis, the group said. Sources at the bank have spoken of an “incumbent cabal” that pushed back against changes Mminele wanted to make, and had the ear of the board.   Absa put a new strategy in place in 2018, after the exit of its former UK parent Barclays. Lucas-Bull emphasised that the disagreements were not over the “what” of the strategy but “the when and the how, which includes the operating model”. She also said the board was “doing some self-reflection right now in terms of the lessons learnt”. Mminele’s sudden exit has raised concerns about reversals in transformation at Absa and in the financial sector more generally, especially coming after African Bank unexpectedly parted ways with its CEO, Basani Maluleke, last month.

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

Other internet posting(s) in this news category

  • Mminele departure a blow to black executives, at City Press (paywall access only)


EMPLOYEE OWNERSHIP SHARE PLAN

Momentum delivers on empowerment promise with 44.9-million shares for all permanent, SA-based employees

Momentum Metropolitan Holdings writes that on 22 April it delivered on its proposed Employee Ownership Share Plan (ESOP) thereby empowering more than 13,000 employees from an allocation of about 44.9-million shares. This followed the shareholder approval in November 2020.   The inclusive employee share ownership plan benefits all permanent, SA-based employees and, although weighted in favour of Black employees, (including African, Coloured and Indian (ACI) as defined in the B-BBEE Codes), it includes all race groups. Black employees who constitute more 78% of the group’s employee base, will receive at least 85% of the economic benefits from the Scheme. Black women employees will receive 55% of the economic benefits from the scheme.   Current employees will receive 80% of the share allocation with the remaining 20% being set aside for new employees joining the group over the next five years. Employees are not required to contribute financially towards their allocation of shares. However, they will need to remain employed for seven years to retain 100% of the benefit of their allocated equity, subject to a 10-year redemption restriction. Employees resigning early will retain a percentage of their allocation, again subject to the 10-year redemption restriction. Retiring employees, or those that pass away, will retain 100% of their allocation. A trust has been set up to enable effective governance through an independent Board of Trustees. Employees will have the opportunity to appoint the majority of the trustees, of which two, will be employees

Read the full original of the sponsored article in the above regard atBusinessLive


VACANCIES / STAFFING

Solidarity has list of 120 local engineers ‘competent and willing’ to do work of imported Cubans

The Citizen reports that trade union Solidarity has sent the government a list of more than 120 “competent and willing” South African engineers who can replace the 24 Cuban engineers imported to help repair the country’s ailing water infrastructure. On Thursday, Minister Lindiwe Sisulu welcomed the Cubans, claiming their presence would ultimately lead to better living conditions South Africans. According to Solidarity, however, its list of local engineers encompassed more expertise at a lower cost than importing Cuban engineers. Solidarity CEO Dirk Hermann said the list contained some of the country’s most experienced and knowledgeable specialists in engineering, some who have masters and doctoral degrees, and others who have up to 42 years of experience. “Our list contains specialists in several fields of engineering and project management, but should the minister require other expertise we can find those skills with the help of our Engineering Guild,” he stated. Solidarity argued it was unjustified to import foreign workers in the midst of an unemployment crisis. “If the minister was truly unable to find local workers who wanted to do the work, then she did not search very hard. Thus, we will bring the engineers to her,” Hermann indicated.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Reitumetse Makwea at The Citizen. Read Solidarity’s press statement in regard to this matter at Solidarity News

Cuban engineers may need to be registered with engineering council before embarking on duties

City Press reports that Cuban engineers may need to be registered with a council responsible for holding engineers accountable for shoddy workmanship before embarking on their duties in the country. Alternatively, they may need to be supervised by an engineer registered with the Engineering Council of SA (ECSA). This was revealed by ECSA CEO Sipho Madonsela on Friday. He said the engineers had to be registered because Cuba was not part of the International Engineering Alliance accords. The alliance comprises members from 41 jurisdictions within 29 countries across seven international agreements. Those agreements govern the recognition of engineering educational qualifications and professional competence. Although Madonsela said the applicable law had not made registration mandatory in SA, he pointed out that not being registered limited the scope of work an engineer could perform, as he or she was not permitted to sign engineering projects and designs. That could only be done by ECSA-registered engineers. In the absence of compulsory registration of engineers, Madonsela said it was incumbent on any institution performing engineering work to make use of quality-assured engineers in the interests of public safety.   “The ECSA is mandated to regulate and account for work done by registered persons and, if required, it can hold registered engineers accountable for unsound engineering work through the code of conduct and practice,” Madonsela indicated. This advice came after Water and Sanitation Minister Lindiwe Sisulu welcomed 24 Cuban engineers to the country on Thursday, in what she explained was a move to transfer skills to local engineers.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Msindisi Fengu at City Press


SALARY PAYMENTS

Mango’s 500 staff members unlikely to get their May salaries

BL Premium reports that state-owned low-cost airline Mango is unlikely to be able to pay the salaries of its 500 or so employees from May as it battles to stay afloat. The Department of Public Enterprises (DPE) said at the weekend that it was in discussions with the Mango board and the interim board of parent company SA Airways (SAA) about repositioning the national carrier’s subsidiaries in light of delayed government funding. The delay means Mango has to stop operating from 1 May and go into business rescue until July while it waits for funding. SAA has been in business rescue since December 2019.   Mango operates a small fleet of 14 Boeing aircraft. It announced at the weekend that it would temporarily suspend flights amid a cash crunch. According to industry sources, while April salaries were paid at Mango, there is no money left to cover salaries for May. The National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa), a major union at the airline, blamed DPE minister Pravin Gordhan for the crisis at Mango.   Union spokesperson Phakamile Hlubi-Majola claimed on Sunday that his department misled management and workers at SAA subsidiaries that money from SAA’s business rescue was coming.   “There was no money for SAA subsidiaries because it was not catered for during the business rescue process.   All SAA subsidiaries are in limbo until the money requested from Treasury has been allocated, which will be sometime in June," she said.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Linda Ensor and Bekezela Phakathi at BusinessLive (paywall access only)


EXECUTIVE PAY

Glencore chairman defends pay plan for commodity trader’s new CEO Gary Nagle

Bloomberg reports that Glencore’s chairman has defended an incentive plan for the commodity giant’s new chief executive officer, after prominent advisory firms urged investors to vote against it. Gary Nagle, the handpicked successor of outgoing CEO Ivan Glasenberg, will take over the helm of the world’s biggest commodity trader later this year. Glencore last month outlined Nagle’s pay plan, with a maximum total compensation of $10.4 million. The company said given that much of this would be held back until two years after his employment ended, the most he could receive in a year was $6.4 million. But advisors Institutional Shareholder Services Inc. and Glass, Lewis & Co. have recommended that investors reject the proposal at the company’s annual general meeting (AGM), saying the amount was excessive. Speaking ahead of this week’s AGM, Chairman Tony Hayward defended the payment plan: “We feel like we came up with an overall package that was fair, balanced and equitable. We’re not going to withdraw it from the AGM. It will be interesting to see what the result is.” He added that he was optimistic it would get significant support, although Glencore would take a final view after the AGM vote.

Read the original of the report in the above regard by Thomas Biesheuvel at Moneyweb

Other internet posting(s) in this news category

  • Pay rules a hindrance, says PSG’s Piet Mouton, at BusinessLive (paywall access only)


COVID-19 CORRUPTION

PPE looters dodge criminal prosecution

Mail & Guardian reports that companies sanctioned by the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) for looting Covid-19 funds have to pay back the money, but are not being criminally charged and are still allowed to conduct business with government departments. Service providers who delivered personal protective equipment (PPE) and other commodities to departments at inflated prices or through dodgy contracts are entering agreements with the SIU to return their ill-gotten gains. The SIU has been investigating PPE looting in terms of a proclamation issued by President Cyril Ramaphosa last year in response to the public outcry over the abuse of Covid-19 emergency funding during level five of the lockdown. It has powers to investigate and to recover state assets, but does not have powers of prosecution. In a number of cases, particularly in KwaZulu-Natal, action against PPE looters is ending with SIU recovery agreements, with no further sanction being implemented by the government departments that the service providers looted. Officials in the education and social development departments were suspended over the contracts last year, but senior staff members in both departments said this week that no criminal charges had been laid against employees regarding the contracts set aside by the SIU. Neither were there moves by the departments to blacklist the companies or their owners. SIU head advocate Andy Mothibi indicated last week that the unit would continue to recover financial losses incurred by government departments as a result of irregular PPE contracts awarded.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Paddy Harper at Mail & Guardian (paywall access only)

 


Get other news reports at the SA Labour News home page