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, 3 December 2021.


COVID-19 PANDEMIC

President Ramaphosa expects task team to report back on vaccine mandates soon

TimesLIVE reports that President Cyril Ramaphosa on Sunday said he was waiting for a report-back from a task team he established to investigate the possibility of making vaccination against Covid-19 infection mandatory. “When the National Coronavirus Command Council meets, I am expecting a report from the task team we set up as well as the inter-ministerial committee.   There needs to be a report and this needs to happen very quickly because with the rising wave of infections, we need to act quickly so cabinet can take a decision on this matter,” said Ramaphosa. Earlier in the pandemic, Ramaphosa on numerous occasions told South Africans they would not be compelled to be vaccinated. However, the increasing number of Covid-19 infections, the mutating variants and the slump in the vaccination drive has seen government consider the option, which some countries have made mandatory. During his recent address to the nation following the discovery of the Omicron variant, Ramaphosa announced he had appointed a task team to undertake a broad consultative process on making vaccine mandatory. Asked about the task team on Sunday afternoon, Ramaphosa said the process might be slowed by the intensity of consultations and talking to sectors of society. He indicated that he was “willing to engage with some of those constituencies”.   The president went on to say:   “We live in a country where people have strong views, for and against, and my task as a leader is to nudge everyone in the same direction. Through the dialogue I said we should have, hopefully we can get everyone to move in a direction where we will all be aware about the dangers of not being vaccinated.”

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Amanda Khoza at TimesLIVE. Read too, Forced vaccination plan divides business organisations, on page 1 of Sunday Times Business Times of 5 December 2021. And also, See you in court Mr President over mandatory vaccinations, say some civil rights organisations, on page 1 of The Sunday Independent of 5 December 2021

University of Johannesburg the latest university to make Covid-19 vaccination mandatory

BL Premium reports that the University of Johannesburg (UJ) has become the latest tertiary institution to make Covid-19 jabs compulsory for those who want to access its facilities. “At its meeting on 25 November 2021, the University of Johannesburg’s (UJ’s) Council resolved that all the university’s campuses and facilities will be mandatory vaccination sites from January 2022,” the university spokesperson indicated in a statement on Friday. The vaccination policy states that staff, postdoctoral research fellows and students will need to provide UJ with their vaccination status (i.e. first vaccination completed or fully vaccinated) before gaining access to any campus or facility. These measures also apply to ad hoc contractors, identified stakeholders and visitors. However, exemptions based on medical or religious grounds would be considered.   Several universities have introduce mandatory vaccination policies, including Wits, the University of Cape Town, the University of the Western Cape and the University of the Free State.   According to Linda Meyer of Universities SA, tertiary institutions have established rights under the Higher Education Act to determine who may access their properties.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Bekezela Phakathi at BusinessLive (subscriber access only)

Mandatory vaccines at universities could lead to violent protests, student body warns

News24 reports that the Student Union of SA (SAUS) foresees that students and university managements will be at "loggerheads" at the start of the next academic year because of mandatory vaccination policies, which could lead to violent protests. SAUS president Yandisa Ndzoyiya addressed a joint meeting of the Portfolio Committee on Higher Education, Science and Innovation and the Portfolio Committee on Police on Friday and indicated:   "We've been saying to USAF [Universities South Africa] there must be a way to engage students on the vaccine.   Of course, as the union, we want to encourage students to take the vaccine because when they save their own lives, they save other people's lives. But how universities are doing it, already a number of institutions, through their councils, through their senate meetings, they have resolved on mandatory vaccines. And students, when they leave those meetings, they feel excluded because they are not thoroughly engaged. And that is going to lead to some violent protest because we are going to have a situation where students are protesting, and university management wants to proceed with registration because they don't want to lose academic time." SAUS blamed student protests on breakdowns of engagement between students and university managements and said they turned violent when the police got involved.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Jan Gerber at News24

Other internet posting(s) in this news category

  • Covid-19 update: 11,125 new cases confirmed, positivity rate stands at 23.8%, at The Citizen
  • Alcohol industry body pushes for court to prevent bans as fourth wave looms, at BusinessLive (subscriber access only)


OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH AND SAFETY

Parliament wants update from defence department on refurbishment of 1 Military Hospital in Tshwane, calling it 'an unmitigated disaster'

News24 reports that the Joint Standing Committee on Defence has called on the Department of Defence and Military Veterans to account for the refurbishment of the 1 Military Hospital in Tshwane. On Friday, the committee complained that the defence department had shown complete disregard and unwillingness to account for the hospital's continuing repair and maintenance programme.   "We are concerned that the defence department failed to brief the committee on the forensic report that they have been sitting on for about a year, citing that it is yet to be taken through the internal structures due to its sensitive nature. Also, the department has been unwilling to take action against senior staff members identified to have acted unlawfully in relation to the project," the chairperson of the committee, Cyril Xaba, indicated. Noting that there were concerns about the escalation of costs, construction and the cost of medical outsourcing, Xaba went on to say: "The committee remains of the view that the project is an unmitigated disaster, with the state continuing to spend millions in private healthcare due to the delays in completing the repair project."   He added, however, that the committee welcomed the public works department's readiness to be held accountable and also welcomed its initiation of consequence management.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Cebelihle Mthethwa at News24


PROTESTS / CAMPAIGNS

With Van Reenen’s Pass blockaded by protesting truckers on Friday, business worried about impact of recurring protests on N3 trade corridor

BusinessLive reports that business in KwaZulu-Natal is worried about the impact of recurring road blockades on the N3 trade corridor as the route is crucial to the region’s economy. In the latest incident on Friday, truck drivers blockaded the freeway route into the province, citing government failure to provide feedback about their concerns. On Friday there was a backlog of traffic on the N3 Toll and lanes were closed resulting in a complete standstill northbound from Tugela toll plaza and southbound from Van Reenen. Truck drivers reportedly parked their vehicles on the N3 and removed the keys. Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry CEO Palesa Phili commented: “The KZN economy is extremely reliant on the N3 Corridor, as it serves as a critical trade route, connecting our two harbours to the Sadc region. If these protest actions persist it will impact the entire value chain from trucking companies to the receiving businesses.” She condemned this disruptive behaviour and called for urgent intervention. According to several sources, Friday’s protest followed a memorandum of demands handed to transport and labour ministers Fikile Mbalula and Thulas Nxesi on 25 October during a protest on the N9 and N10 highways outside Middelburg in the Eastern Cape. The memorandum called for intervention into the four-year long dispute about the employment of foreign nationals in the logistics industry and the effect on job opportunities for South Africans. Government said a technical team would report back to the drivers and small truck operators, which apparently did not happen. Siphosihle Muthwa of the National Truck Drivers Association claimed on Friday:   “Government promised the drivers that within seven days they would provide them with feedback into the process of addressing concerns around the employment of foreign nationals, among other issues. Government never came back to them. That is why we are seeing what is happening on the N3.”

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Orrin Singh and Mary Papayya at BusinessLive. Read too, Recovery operations begin as trucks blocking the N3 get towed, at News24. And also, Police make several arrests in connection to Van Reenen’s Pass blockade, at EWN. As well as, Roads reopened along N3 toll route near Van Reenen’s Pass, at EWN

Other internet posting(s) in this news category

  • N3 blockade truckers to appear in court on multiple charges, at The Citizen


MINING LABOUR

Sibanye-Stillwater confirms deaths of four employees in two separate incidents on Friday

Mining Weekly reports that Sibanye-Stillwater has confirmed that four employees were killed in two separate incidents on Friday, 3 December. At about 02:30, an employee at the Khuseleka shaft, at the Rustenburg operations, died in a fall-of-ground incident which occurred while he was barring down the sidewall of a development end. Then, at about 10:00, three employees at 3 Shaft at the Beatrix operations died following a trackless mobile machinery incident.   Sibanye has experienced a notable regression in fatalities this year, with 18 employees having lost their lives.   In particular, the incident at Beatrix followed an incident earlier last week when another employee lost his life in a blasting incident. CEO Neal Froneman reacted that the number of fatal incidents Sibanye has experienced was "of grave concern" for management and the Sibanye board.   On Friday, the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) called for Froneman to resign and for the Sibanye board to be disbanded in light of the high number of fatalities at the producer’s mines this year. The union previously made submissions for amendments to the Mine Health and Safety Act to hold mining bosses accountable. AMCU also recently called on the state to lead an inquest into the rising number of fatalities this year across SA’s mining industry.

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

Solidarity advocates business rescue for Sibanye-Stillwater to save jobs

On Friday, Solidarity indicated that Sibanye-Stillwater should place itself under voluntary business rescue. This followed after the mining house apparently made it clear during wage negotiations that it did not intend to put a contingency plan in place to prevent retrenchments. According to the trade union, Sibanye has no intention of negotiating wages in good faith and has failed to take into account the interests of its employees.   Solidarity said the producer’s focus was to prove to all parties involved in the talks what a poor financial position the company was in instead of finding solutions or paying its employees market-related rates. “It (Sibanye) pleads poverty and continuously proclaims poor financial performance and cash losses from the housetops its solution being to cut staff in the foreseeable future and to offer meagre increases rather than to change company management. We suggest that the company instead turns to business rescue to get it on the same sustainable growth trajectory as Harmony Gold and Gold Fields,” commented Gideon du Plessis, Solidarity’s general secretary. He went on to say: “An experienced business rescue practitioner may be all the mining house needs to review its top management’s generous remuneration packages and put it back on track where sustainable growth is possible and where it can offer its workers the same remuneration and security as other mines.” Noting that the last CCMA conciliation session between the parties would take place on 13 December, Du Plessis advised: “If the mining house does not want to place itself under business rescue, we request it not to oppose any applications for it, or better yet, that it would make use of this last opportunity to negotiate in good faith.”

Read Solidarity’s press statement in the above regard in full at Solidarity News

Other general posting(s) relating to mining

  • Venetia’s transition to underground mine about 54% complete, says De Beers, at Mining Weekly


PRICES

Blunder made by DMRE in calculating December’s petrol price increase

Daily Maverick reports that ‘capacity issues’ at the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) were once again thrown into sharp relief on Wednesday when the department admitted it had miscalculated the fuel price adjustment. It seems petrol prices were supposed to rise by 75 cents a litre and not by 81 cents.   Last Monday, the DMRE announced that from Wednesday — a price change always comes into effect on the first Wednesday of the month — the petrol price at the pump would rise by 81 cents per litre. Eleven hours after that price change — and presumably after many motorists had already paid the extra 81 cents per litre — the department issued a statement:   “The Department of Mineral Resources and Energy regrets to announce that the adjustment of petrol price announced on Monday 29 November was erroneous… the accurate petrol price for December 2021 will be adjusted as follows: Petrol (both 93 and 95 ULP & LRP): seventy-five cents per litre (75.00 c/l) increase. The six cents difference is due to the fact that the adjustment of wages for service station workers had already been implemented in September 2021.” So while the DMRE did say it was sorry, there was no cheque in the mail for motorists who overpaid on Wednesday morning. The Automobile Association of SA, which has been critical of the way the petrol price is structured, noted in a statement: “The error by the DMRE validates the AA’s call that a total review of the fuel price, and an audit of all the processes and components which comprise the fuel price, is necessary.”

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

Other internet posting(s) in this news category

  • Taxi operators gear up to hike fares after the latest fuel price increase, at Sunday Independent


INTERN PLACEMENTS

National health department needs R824m from Treasury to place more than 1,000 junior doctors

News24 reports that the intake of just over 1,000 newly graduated medical students expected to ease the pressure on healthcare workers in public health facilities is in limbo. The national health department has revealed that it does not have funding for 644 community service and 384 intern placements at government health facilities for 2022. The department needs R824 million to fund the 1,028 junior doctors for next year and it has turned to National Treasury for a bailout. This information came to light when the department met with the SA Medical Association (SAMA) and the Junior Doctors' Association of SA (Judasa) on Thursday. As was the case last year, those who are most affected are doctors who studied in Cuba, with 600 of them set to miss out on community service placements.   In total, the health officials who engaged SAMA and Judasa said R824 million was needed to cover the shortfall for interns and community service doctors. The officials also revealed that they had so far managed to raise R30 million to pay for 120 doctors' community service, but the amount was only enough to cover costs from 1 January to 31 March 2022. The department blamed unnecessary red tape for delays in its engagement with National Treasury. As a solution, it has approached Treasury through the minister's office to request once-off funding to ease the pressure. Health department spokesperson Foster Mohale said: "The department has met with SAMA and Judasa to update them on the progress and challenges with regards to placement of medical graduates. The department has committed to keep these important stakeholders abreast."   He did not comment on whether the department had requested R824 million or on the perceived bias against junior doctors who had studied in Cuba.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Juniour Khumalo at News24 (subscriber access only)


HIGHER EDUCATION / QUALIFICATIONS

Higher Education Minister sounds alarm about growing number of fake colleges

EWN reports that Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande has warned of a spike in the number of fake colleges offering so-called honours and doctoral degrees. He raised the alarm as reports continued to stream in about academics who had been conned by these bodies. Ahead of the new academic year, the public has been urged to first check an institute's registration qualifications on the higher education department’s website before applying for admission to a course or paying any fees.   Departmental spokesperson Ishmael Mnisi said an investigation would be launched into these illegal operations.

Read the original of the short report in the above regard at EWN


DISMISSALS

Labour Court upholds dismissal of senior Eskom technician who disparaged bosses on Facebook

TimesLIVE reports that the Labour Court has dashed the reinstatement hopes of a former Eskom employee who was fired for ridiculing his bosses on Facebook. Iteseng Joseph Nkgwang took the decision of the CCMA, which had upheld his dismissal, on review to the Labour Court in Cape Town. The judgment handed down by the court details Nkgwang’s unacceptable behaviour. He was employed by the power utility as a senior technician in 2005 and lost his job in 2018. Nkgwang took to Facebook to attack his then boss, a senior manager of maintenance and operations. The employee posted the following message about her on Facebook: “When you are disabled you have to treat people like rubbish.” He also posted the following message about the general manager in the province: “You think I am scared of her, black mother full of s**t’.” At the time, both managers had never met Nkgwang.   He was brought before a disciplinary hearing. A pricing manager at Eskom chaired the disciplinary hearing and was not spared Nkgwang’s posts. He learned that the day after the hearing the employee had posted the following on Facebook: “The idiot came to a disciplinary hearing with a pre-determined outcome. If he feels like it he must take me to court like Grizzly Bear said she will take me to court.” The post was accompanied by “emojis of faeces”. After Nkgwang was fired, he took Eskom to the CCMA, however, the commissioner found his dismissal to have been “substantively and procedurally fair”. Nkgwang then took the fight to the Labour Court where he challenged the CCMA’s decision on nine grounds, including a claim that “the commissioner was unduly influenced by the previous commissioner”. However, the court found no merit in his arguments and this month dismissed the review application.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Philani Nombembe at TimesLIVE


SUSPENSIONS

Financial and Fiscal Commission suspends CEO Kay Brown amid claims of misconduct

BL Premium reports that the CEO of the constitutional body tasked with advising the Treasury on its fiscal framework and with exercising oversight over government spending has been suspended amid allegations of misconduct. The action is also pending the outcome of investigations into the financial irregularities that have plagued the organisation. The Financial and Fiscal Commission (FFC) should be an example of financial rectitude for the rest of government, but its 2020/2021 annual report shows that it has been beset by high levels of irregular, fruitless and wasteful expenditure, and has suffered from supply chain weaknesses.   CEO Kay Brown was placed on precautionary suspension on 25 November. She was replaced in an acting capacity by the head of research, Chen Wei Tseng.   Brown joined the FFC in April 2018 after working for about 16 years for the Treasury, where she was highly regarded. Tseng said there were a number of financial irregularities in the FFC that lay behind Brown’s suspension. One of the matters under forensic investigation is the possible misappropriation of assets related to a data warehouse project. The amount of fruitless and wasteful expenditure involved was R1.9m in the 2019/2020 financial year and arose because the value created was less than the amount paid.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Linda Ensor at BusinessLive (subscriber access only)

 


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