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, 10 December 2021.


TOP READ

Pay rulings and unresolved labour issues to roll over into new year, says Solidarity’s Gideon du Plessis

In an informative overview, Gideon du Plessis, trade union Solidarity’s general secretary, writes about key unresolved workplace that will be issues of importance on the labour relations scene in 2022. The public unions’ dissatisfaction with this year’s public service salary negotiations, the long-awaited Constitutional Court ruling on non-implementation of the last leg of their 2018 agreement, and the new 2022 negotiations will all be interlinked. Meantime, government employees can expect only a 1.5% increase in 2022/2023 in terms of the National Treasury’s Public Sector Remuneration Strategy that finance minister Enoch Godongwana referred to in his medium-term budget policy statement. At Eskom, there is the dispute about the utility’s unilateral implementation of the 2021 salary increases, with the unions having referred the matter for arbitration. The ruling in this regard is due soon. The 2022 Eskom negotiations are set to begin in April.   Sibanye-Stillwater is currently embroiled in a wage dispute with mining unions at its gold mines. Among other issues marked out by Du Plessis are the outcome of the investigation conducted by the Essential Services Committee (ESC) into strikes in the coal and steel sectors; the Metal and Engineering Industries Bargaining Council’s struggle for survival in the face of antagonistic employer organisations; business rescue processes at Comair and Mango; salary negotiations at Safair; salary negotiations at SAA Technical; negotiations in the bargaining council for the chemical industry’s petroleum, industrial chemicals and glass sectors; the plight of unpaid Denel employees; elective congresses at Numsa and the NUM; Joseph Mathunjwa of Amcu’s appeal against a labour court ruling that his 2019 re-election as president in 2019 was invalid; a definite answer in early 2022 about mandatory Covid-19 vaccination of employees; and the effect of Covid-19 on the economy and job losses.

Read the original of Gideon du Plessis’ informative article in full at BusinessLive


OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH & SAFETY

Doctors say they won’t treat injured workers if Compensation Fund cuts out third-party payers

BL Premium reports that in a long-running battle over the use of third-party companies, doctors who treat employees injured at work say they will stop providing their services if the Compensation Fund (CF) insists on weeding them out. An employee injured while working is treated by doctors or physiotherapists who are then paid by the CF, which receives employer contributions. In a process that is administratively onerous with payments from the fund sometimes taking more than 400 days, most medical service providers use companies that pay them for treating patients injured on duty upfront and then claim from the fund on their behalf. But for two years and using three separate pieces of proposed legislation, the CF has tried to outlaw the use of these companies, referred to as third-party administrators. In October, CF commissioner Vuyo Mafata gazetted for public comment rules that would stop the fund from paying third-party providers.   The SA Medical Association (Sama) surveyed its members last week on the proposed rules and reported that 76% of those who worked with people injured on duty would have no choice but to stop treating these patients if the rules took effect. The gazetted rules are the third attempt to force doctors and therapists to deal directly with the fund for payment. Sama, the National Employers Association of SA and the Injured Workers Action Group (Iwag) have met the CF commissioner and Minister of Labour about the issue in recent weeks.

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


COVID-19 PANDEMIC

Ramaphosa tests positive for Covid-19 and is isolating in Cape Town, deputy president to take over for next week

TimesLive reports that President Cyril Ramaphosa has tested positive for Covid-19, Minister in the Presidency, Mondli Gungubele, confirmed on Sunday night. Deputy President David Mabuza would be taking over "all responsibilities" for the next week, according to a statement issued shortly after 10pm.   Gungubele said: "The president started feeling unwell after leaving the state memorial service in honour of former deputy president FW de Klerk in Cape Town earlier today [Sunday]. Today’s proceedings in Cape Town were undertaken in compliance with health regulations pertaining to hand hygiene, the wearing of face masks and social distancing. The president is in good spirits but is being monitored by the South African Military Health Service of the South African National Defence Force. The President, who is fully vaccinated, is in self-isolation in Cape Town and has delegated all responsibilities to deputy president David Mabuza for the next week." According to the statement, Ramaphosa was tested for Covid-19 in all of the four countries he visited on his recent tour to West Africa.

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

Returning workers likely to bring flood of Omicron cases to SA’s neighbours

Bloomberg News reports that SA’s neighbours are bracing for a flood of returning workers over the December holidays, threatening to accelerate the spread of the Omicron variant that’s already ignited a fourth wave of Covid-19 infections in the region. While many countries banned travellers from Southern Africa after the new strain was first identified in the region, its governments have denounced the restrictions and have largely kept borders open.   Zimbabwe reported a record number of new coronavirus cases last week, with more than one in three people being tested showing positive results. And that’s before the end-of-year rush, which usually starts in the second half of December. John Nkengasong, director at the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, said last week: “We will definitely see an increased number of cases around the January-February timeline across the continent.” The UN estimates SA hosts about 2.9-million workers from other countries in the region, with the bulk coming from Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Lesotho. Low vaccination rates will add to the spread.   Zimbabwe has fully inoculated about 20% of its people; while in Mozambique the figure is less than 15%.   Both countries are enforcing mandatory testing for all arrivals at their borders, which will add to the delays and crowding. Zimbabwe requires a 10-day quarantine. Any unvaccinated travellers entering Lesotho will get mandatory shots at the border.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Matthew Hill at BusinessLive

Other internet posting(s) in this news category

  • Covid-19: Cases climb by 18,035, deaths increase by 21, at News24
  • Lancet, Ampath agree to reduce Covid-19 PCR test cost to R500, at Engineering News
  • Opinion: Get vaccinated or get fired: it’s not that simple, at Sunday Times


PPE CORRUPTION

Ramaphosa 'studying' SIU's report on PPE graft

News24Wire reports that President Cyril Ramaphosa has received the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) report on corruption in the procurement of Covid-19 personal protective equipment (PPE). In 2020, Ramaphosa signed a proclamation authorising investigations into widespread corruption in PPE procurement.   "The Presidency is studying the report and will keep the public abreast of developments in this matter.   The Presidency will do so in a manner that preserves information that may be or become the subject of prosecution, civil action or disciplinary proceedings," Presidency spokesperson Tyrone Seale indicated. Allegations of corruption relating to lucrative PPE tenders and Covid-19 relief funding arose after the pandemic hit in 2020. Millions in public funds were channelled to politically connected companies. "It is expected the SIU report will contain information on matters that have been referred to the National Prosecuting Authority for prosecution; matters that have been referred to relevant departments or entities for disciplinary steps to be taken against their employees, and what monies have been recouped by the SIU. The SIU is empowered in law to take these steps in the course of its work and as soon as it deems fit," Seale said about the final PPE report.

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


TRUCKING PROTESTS

Trucking havoc is nothing less than economic sabotage — and it’s far from over because authorities have been slow to act

Business Times reports that Gavin Kelly, CEO of the Road Freight Association, expects more blockades of the N3, with devastating consequences for the economy and the local freight industry unless the government deals with the ringleaders. “The feeling is that these guys are going to do it again, because what sort of reaction has there been from the authorities? They're getting away with it,” he commented. The N3 in KwaZulu-Natal was blockaded during the July riots and again on Friday, 3 December. Trucks have been targeted on the N#, which is SA's most important economic artery, as well as on the N1 in the Western Cape and Gauteng and on the N4 in Mpumalanga, for more than three years. An organisation calling itself the All Truck Drivers Forum and Allied SA blames the mayhem on the government's failure to stop local operators from using cheap drivers from Zimbabwe in preference to the unemployed local drivers it claims to represent. Kelly says it's a “valid” grievance: “South African drivers are losing their jobs because transport companies are employing illegal foreign nationals because they can be paid far less than the minimum wage.” He claimed that for three years they have been appealing to the departments of labour, transport and home affairs “to do what they need to do” to stop this.   The All Truck Drivers Forum and Allied SA, itself unregistered, has had numerous meetings with relevant ministers “but we've seen no progress”. The culprits are unregistered companies, and the government “should have come down on them very harshly right from the beginning”, according to Kelly.

Read the full original of the article in the above regard by Chris Barron at Business Times (subscriber access only)


MINING LABOUR

Sibanye-Stillwater gets ready for strike in the New Year as wage deadlock remains unresolved

Miningmx reports that according to Sibanye-Stillwater’s chief operating officer Richard Stewart, a strike on the producer’s gold mines was unlikely to take place before Christmas and was more likely to happen in the New Year. At a media briefing on Friday, Stewart said the group was “continuing to engage” with the unions following the deadlock on wage negotiations that was declared on 24 November, but that developments were now in the final stage of the CCMA conciliation process. That final stage would establish picketing rules and allow for the CCMA to inspect picketing sites. That was scheduled to happen on 13 December, after which the CCMA had a week to inspect sites and then issue a certificate of non-resolution. Stewart said once that certificate had been issued then the unions could consider a strike and the employer a lockout. He commented that “calling a strike is not something we would do but I would hazard a guess that I don’t think there’s an appetite to have a strike prior to Christmas. We will continue to engage and try to avert a strike but, if there was one, I would imagine it would be in the New Year at some point.”   Stewart confirmed that Sibanye-Stillwater management was currently planning for a strike. “That’s not because it is something that we want or something that we intend or something that we expect. It is just responsible of us to recognise the position we are in and be able to make sure we can protect and sustain our operations for the benefit of all stakeholders in the event that it does occur.” He appealed to the unions not to strike and to continue engaging with Sibanye-Stillwater.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Brendan Ryan at Miningmx. Read too, Sibanye-Stillwater warns a strike will have ‘significant consequences’ for its gold operations, at BusinessLive (subscriber access only)


PRICES / LEVIES

Finance Minister calls for reforms to the way fuel price is calculated

Bloomberg News reports that Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana has called for changes to the way the fuel price is calculated, after the cost of petrol rose to a record this month. Regulated fuel prices, which include a levy used to finance a fund to compensate those involved in road accidents and other taxes, have jumped 40% this year. The price increased 3.8% at the beginning of December to R20.29 rand a litre in Gauteng. Godongwana is concerned about the increase in fuel costs. He told MPs on Friday “to the extent that we may have to play a role, to do whatever we can, to support the reform of the fuel price.” Data due out on 15 December is expected to show headline consumer inflation accelerated to 5.5% in November from 5% in October, driven by fuel and food costs.   CPI has been above the 4.5% midpoint of the central bank’s target range at which it prefers to anchor expectations since May. Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe told lawmakers that separating the fuel levy from prices would be “helpful.”

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Paul Vecchiatto at BusinessLive


SALARY NON-PAYMENTS

ANC scrambling to raise R200m to pay debts and staff salaries ahead of Christmas

EWN reports on a Sunday Times article that the ANC is scrambling to raise about R200 million to cover its debts and pay employees before the Christmas break.   Employees are facing a bleak festive season because the party owes workers three months in wages. They worked throughout the local government elections despite not being paid for five months. The workers were only paid their salaries for August and September last week after they increased protest action and launched social media attacks on treasurer general Paul Mashatile. Reportedly, Mashatile confirmed the R200 million figure at previous meetings and he will table a plan to raise the funds at the party's National Executive Committee meeting next week. The ruling party has a salary bill of more than R12 million due to unpaid salaries for October, November and December. The party also owes at least R140 million in provident fund debts as well as recurring pay as you earn tax debt and undisclosed amounts in medical aid and UIF debts.

Read the original of the short report in the above regard by Maki Molapo at EWN. Read the original report on page 1 of Sunday Times of 12 December 2021


BUSINESS RESCUE

Numsa demands Comair employees be paid their full salaries

EWN reports that the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) has demanded that from 1 January all employees at Comair be paid their full salaries. According to the union, most have only been taking home around 70% of their pay, while benefits have been drastically reduced. The aviation industry, which has been hit hard by Covid-19, forced Comair to ground its flights in July due to financial difficulties. The company was subsequently placed in business rescue. Numsa spokesperson Phakamile Hlubi-Majola said: "It is our firm view that the business rescue practitioners are milking Comair. They cost an average R1 million per month according to management. They are making a fortune whilst employees are sinking into debt and despair because their standard of living has been drastically reduced. Fortunately, the backward collective agreement will expire on 31 December. This means a new collective agreement will have to be negotiated with new terms and conditions."

Read the original of the short report in the above regard by Veronica Mokhoali at EWN


STAFF RETRENCHMENTS

Alexander Forbes believes worst is over in terms of retrenchments, but those who lost jobs are dipping into pensions

Business Times reports that Alexander Forbes (AF) believes SA has seen the last of large-scale corporate retrenchments due to the pandemic, but the expected gradual recovery of businesses means those who lost their jobs are being forced to cash in their pensions while they hunt for work in a sluggish economy. CEO Dawie de Villiers said last week that one of the negatives of the large-scale retrenchments experienced over the past 20 months was that most of those in the middle-to-lower living standards measures groupings who had lost their jobs had “tended to withdraw all their cash and not preserve any”. De Villiers added that of AF’s 900,000 client base, it had seen about 35,000 retrenchments since the pandemic began in March last year, and “north of 80%” cashed in their pensions. “The economy is going to take time to recover and while companies aren’t retrenching any more, they’re not hiring everybody back at the same rate. It’s a new base and it’s a lower base and companies are hiring at a slower pace. It is going to be tough for those people to get jobs, unless the economy gets kick-started. That’s why it’s so key to grow the economy and create jobs. Without the economy growing and businesses being able to operate, there are no new jobs. So those people will have to live off their cash for a long time,” De Villiers commented. Explaining why the retrenchment numbers have dropped off in AF’s client base even as the unemployment rate has risen to 34.9%, De Villiers said a lot of the group’s clients were big corporations that had already undertaken retrenchments in the first year of the pandemic.

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


WORK PERMITS

Clock is ticking for thousands of Zimbabweans to replace visas, with jobs and bank accounts at risk

BL Premium reports that the government has indicated that Zimbabweans have a 12-month period from 31 December to replace special visas, which have enabled them to live, work and study in SA legally.   But, it may already be too late for thousands of them who face losing access to key services in three weeks’ time.   That is because of the wording of a directive from the Department of Home Affairs (DHA), which may lead to the 200,000 holders of the visas being blocked from accessing bank accounts and other services unless they can show they have already applied for “mainstream” alternatives. In November, the government announced it had decided to no longer issue extensions to the Zimbabwean special dispensation visas, which were introduced in 2009 to allow Zimbabweans working illegally in SA to regularise their status. The visas were first granted for five years and were extended twice. A cabinet directive suggested that the holders of the special permits, which would expire at the end of December, would be given 12 months to apply for other permits, meaning they would have until December 2022 to sort out their paperwork. But in terms of a DHA directive dated 7 December, all companies, employers, learning institutions and banks should terminate agreements and services with permit holders if they do not have proof that they have applied for other permits or visas via VFS, the front-end visa handling operator.   Visa applications, which cost about R3,000, are by appointment and VFS could be overwhelmed by demand, which will make it impossible for many to lodge applications by the deadline.   The directive has prompted an association representing the holders of the Zimbabwean special visas to approach the courts in a bid to set it aside.

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

 


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