Petrol price drop expected in February

eNCA reports that welcome news for consumers and businesses who had to stomach record fuel hikes as another price cut is expected in February. The Automobile Association (AA) says unaudited figures from the Central Energy Fund shows a drop of around 12 cents a litre for petrol, 36 cents for diesel, and 33 cents for illuminating paraffin.

According to the AA, changes in the international oil price and in the rand/dollar exchange could also throw a spanner in the works. The AA warns that figures could fluctuate in the second half of January.

Sassa says accounts of those without gold cards will be closed

eNCA reports that the accounts of grant beneficiaries who don’t have Sassa’s new gold cards will be closed by the end of March. That’s the warning from the social grants agency. The old Sassa card expired at the end of last year.

Beneficiaries who’ve missed the deadline for the card swop won’t lose their social grants. The money will be deposited in their accounts. But without the new Sassa gold card, they won’t be able to withdraw their funds. The accounts will also not remain open indefinitely. About 200,000 people have yet to do the card exchange. Meanwhile, scammers are continuing to target the vulnerable. Sassa said officials are close to making an arrest after a man tried to sell Sassa cards on Facebook.

Court rules on Uitzicht High School matter

COSATU Western Cape has learned with joy, the ruling of Judge Masuku today in the Cape Town High Court. The court granted an interdict to the Uitzicht High Governing Body, allowing the school to be kept open after unilateral closure of the school by the MEC of Education.

The learners of Uitzicht are eager to continue their schooling year, as they were met with chained gates and all services disconnected on the opening day of the 2019 school year. Teachers were told to report to Department offices daily, where they are twirling thumbs. The Court has granted an interdict to closure and COSATU wishes the leaner’s a successful 2019 in their studies at Uitzicht High. The School Governing Body and Learners will hold a media briefing at the school.

Date: 2018 January 17
Venue : Uitzight High School
Time:  10:30

Parliament’s committee to fix technical glitch in national minimum wage legislation

EWN reports that parliament’s labour portfolio committee has agreed to fix a technical glitch affecting the new National Minimum Wage Act by way of an amendment bill, while stressing that the new legislation is in full force and effect. The committee held a special meeting on Wednesday to decide on how best to speedily fix an incorrect cross-reference in the bill. It relates to a section that makes it an unfair labour practice for an employer to unilaterally change a worker’s wages or other conditions of employment in connection with the implementation of the minimum wage.

The glitch was picked up late in 2018 and will now be corrected by an amendment bill the labour committee will draft once it has the approval of the National Assembly. Committee chairperson Lemias Mashile has stressed, however, that the technical amendment has no impact on the implementation of the National Minimum Wage Act. The act was promulgated without the incorrect section, which aims to protect workers from employers who try to circumvent the new law. The committee’s amendment bill will ensure that workers whose employers unilaterally changed their pay or working conditions ahead of the new law taking effect will be able to seek redress for an unfair labour practice.

by Gaye Davis

NEHAWU concerned by calls to ban use of cellphones for home affairs front-desk staff

The National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (NEHAWU) on Tuesday said it was concerned by the remarks made by the parliamentary portfolio committee on home affairs about the use of cellphones by front desk staff during working hours. Chairperson of the portfolio committee Hlomani Chauke on Monday urged the department to consider an outright ban on cellphone usage by frontline staff during working hours at all home affairs offices. In a statement, Nehawu said that the use of cellphones by front-desk staff had been the subject of discussions between labour and the employer in the bargaining chamber in order to ensure it was managed without infringing on the rights of workers, and that this was responsible for delays in service delivery.

NEHAWU said that it did not condone the unnecessary use of personal cellphones during working hours, especially if it impeded service delivery, but said it found it unacceptable that the blame for delays in service delivery at home affairs was squarely put on the shoulders of their members and workers. The union said there were a number of unfilled vacant posts across the country. Nehawu called on the department to focus on the perpetual crisis the union had been highlighting for a very long time and called on Home Affairs Minister Siyabonga Cwele to deal with improving working conditions as a matter of urgency.

COSATU angered by R1.6bn subsidy for Gautrain

Engineering News reports that the Congress of South Africa Trade Union (COSATU) in Gauteng said on Tuesday that it was dismayed by the news that the provincial department of transport will be subsidizing Gautrain operating expenses with a whopping R1.5-billion this year. News emerged on Monday that the Gautrain Management Agency 2017/18 annual report revealed that Gauteng provincial taxpayers are paying R100 million a month, or R1.6-billion a year, to subsidise the running of the Gautrain as the number of passengers has dropped over the past two years. The provincial grant will help cover operating and maintenance expenses and the private sector portion of the capital costs until the number of passengers is sufficient for fares to meet the operating costs.

In a statement, COSATU Gauteng secretary Dumisani Dakilesaid this confirms their standing argument and view that government does not care about safer public transport for the working-class, but prioritizes transport for the elites. Dakile said the federation in Gauteng has also observed that a number of roads passing through working-class communities were not in good condition, saying that one such road was R511 or William Nicol that passes through Diepsloot informal settlement. Dakile said that Cosatu in Gauteng will seek an audience with Premier David Makhuraand provincial MEC for transport Ismail Vadi to raise their concerns.

Ref: ANA

Doctors get a lifeline as government considers shortening internships

TimesLive reports that shortening doctors’ internships from two years to one is being mooted to alleviate the strain in the training of doctors. Health department spokesperson Popo Maja said: “What we know is that one of the health stakeholders did entertain the idea of internship training being reviewed. But it is too early for us to say anything about it.”

Two-year internships help medical students translate their theoretical knowledge into practice under the supervision of experienced doctors after their studies. One-year community service helps provide health care to under-served areas. South African Medical Association (SAMA) chairperson Dr Angelique Coetzee said there was currently a bottleneck, with too few internships to accommodate medical students graduating in SA and abroad, especially in Cuba.

by Nico Gous

NUM to lead protest march in Pretoria

Mining Weekly writes that the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) in the Highveld Region will lead a protest march on Wednesday, in Pretoria, to demand the immediate payment of salaries owed to hundreds of mineworkers at the Optimum and Koornfontein collieries, in Mpumalanga.

Union members will further demand that the mines are brought back into operation and that the existing business rescue plan be brought to finality. More than 2 000 employees at the mines have not received their salaries for the past three months, the union said.

by Tasneem Bulbulia

Pension funds reject investment in Eskom

eNCA reports that pension fund managers have drawn a line in the sand when it comes to government investments. The managers said they will oppose any move to force investment in state-owned companies.

The ANC announced in its 2019 Election Manifesto that it will investigate ways of using portions of pension funds for socially productive investments. Fund managers warn the move could erode the value of pension funds. Cannon Asset Chief Investments officer Adrian Saville said it is a hard case to make for Eskom as an asset in its current state.

Lower maize production to impact food prices

eNCA reports that South Africa’s maize output forecast is likely to be missed this year due to dry weather and delayed plantings according to the Agricultural Business Chamber. Production for 2018-2019 was estimated at 12,2 million tons, but late rains in the Free State and North West provinces forced farmers to hold out planting until after the optimal mid-December window.

By last week only 60-percent of the intended area for the North West and 70-percent for the Free State had been planted. This is around the same level as during the drought period of 2015-2016, when South Africa – the continent’s biggest maize producer –  was forced to import maize to meet demand.