Prasa concerned by overcrowding of trains in Western Cape

EWN reports that the Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa) has expressed concern after videos recently surfaced on social media showing Metrorail passengers riding on top of moving trains and clinging onto the sides of carriages. This is not an unusual sight due to extreme levels of overcrowding on the rail service in the Western Cape.

Prasa CEO Lindikhaya Zide advised that the Western Cape, at full capacity, was supposed to run 88 train sets, but there were only between 57 and 60 sets running at any given time.  He explained:  “Some of these trains sets have to be taken on a general overhaul programme, some as a consequence of cable theft and vandalism, they are taken out of service so that we can repair them.”

by Lauren Isaacs

Distribution and Warehousing Network (Dawn) has retrenched 1,300 staff in two years

Business Report writes that Distribution and Warehousing Network (Dawn), the listed manufacturer and distributor of plumbing and hardware brands, has retrenched about 1,300 people in the past two years. It handed retrenchments notices to a further 143 people in its Wholesale Housing Supplies (WHS) business on Friday.

Chief executive Edwin Hewitt said on Monday that Dawn had done most of the retrenchments and that the group was now at break-even.  It expected to be profitable by its 2019 financial year.  The group said the retrenchments were necessary to right-size its DPI business, a leading manufacturer of PVC and HDPE piping systems for water reticulation and conveyance, which resulted in the closure of the DPI factory in Bellville.  Costs associated with the retrenchments at DPI amounted to about R7million, and the retrenchments at WHS would cost about R2.5m.

by Roy Cokayne

NUM concludes a 3-year wage agreement with the Coal Producers

The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) is pleased to announce it has signed a 3-year wage agreement with the coal producers last night. The wage agreement is effective from 1 June 2017 (Officials) and 1 July 2017 (category 4 to 8 employees and Miners and Artisans at all Companies with the exception of Koornfontein Mines which will implement on 1 July 2017 and Delmas Coal which will implement on 1 July 2017  for all employees.

Auditor-general finds payment of SARS performance bonuses unlawful

BusinessLive reports that the auditor-general has found that the SA Revenue Service (SARS) has failed to comply with legislation by unlawfully paying bonuses to staff without the approval of the Finance Minister. The conclusion is contained in the long-delayed SARS annual report, which will be tabled in Parliament on Thursday.  In the 2016-17 financial year SARS paid R561m in performance bonuses relating to the 2015-16 financial year, of which R3m was paid to members of the executive committee.

The report reads:  “Performance bonuses relating to the 2015-16 financial year were paid in the 2016-17 financial year and SARS could not provide evidence that an approval was obtained, as specified in the bonus approval framework, from the minister prior to payment being effected to employees who fall within the management structure.”  SARS said that to put legal opinion beyond interpretative doubt, it was seeking a declaratory order from the High Court in Pretoria on the powers of the commissioner to pay performance bonuses.

by Linda Ensor and Natasha Marian

NUM members at Kangra Coal Mine to go strike on Friday

The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) members at Kangra Coal Mine have served a 48-hour notice today to go on strike. The strike will commence on Friday 24 November 2017 starting at 11 am and will include every shift that follows thereafter. The NUM members at Kangra Coal Mine demands a wage increase of R1 100 once off for the year 2017 and 7,5% for 2018 and 8,5% for 2019.

The purpose of the strike is to compel the company to comply with our demands with specific reference to the harmonising of housing allowance and wage increases. The highest paid employees at Kangra Coal Mine are getting housing allowances of between R11, 800 and 12, 600 while the lowest paid employees are getting R4050. It is totally unacceptable and the NUM is of the view that this apartheid inequality gap must be closed. The Kangra Coal Mine continues to be arrogant and negotiating in bad faith. The NUM is determined to force this company to lend an ear to its wage demands.

Plan to merge Setas aims for efficiency

BusinessLive reports that the government is looking to reduce the number of sector education and training authorities (Setas) as part of broader plans to revamp the post-school education and training system. There are currently 21 Setas, which cover all work sectors. The Setas are tasked with creating opportunities in the form of internships, skills programmes and apprenticeships. They control billions of rand via a skills levy derived from all employers who have more than 50 workers. Officials from the Department of Higher Education and Training told MPs on Wednesday that as part of plans to improve efficiency and avoid duplication, there was a proposal to reduce the number of Setas.

After the approval of the National Skills Development Plan, the reduction of the number of Setas was proposed. It could result in Setas that focus on similar sectors merging, such as the AgriSeta and the Food and Beverage Manufacturing Industry Seta, as well as the finance, banking and insurance Setas. The department said a government gazette on the Seta classification informed by the above-mentioned criteria would be issued for public comment in 2018, in order to gazette the legislation and institutional arrangements by 2019.

by Bekezela Phakathi

National Assembly approves sugar tax

BusinessLive reports that the bill providing for the implementation of a tax on sugary beverages was passed by the National Assembly on Tuesday. The measure will be introduced in April 2018 and came after extensive public hearings by Parliament’s finance and health committees as well as negotiations within the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) on an implementation plan.  An interdepartmental committee consisting of the Treasury and the departments of economic development‚ agriculture‚ trade and industry and labour also worked on a mitigation strategy to limit the effects of the levy on sugary beverages.

A task team will monitor the implementation of the health promotion levy to assess its effect on job losses.  It will also look at a range of government programmes to provide support to the industry.  The sugar industry opposed the levy on the grounds that it would contribute to the loss of jobs, but the Treasury and the Department of Health argued it was necessary to deal with obesity and the epidemic of noncommunicable diseases.

by Linda Ensor

Gold mining silicosis case nears out-of-court settlement

Reuters reports that lawyers acting for thousands of miners who contracted fatal lung diseases silicosis and tuberculosis in mines said on Tuesday settlement talks with implicated gold companies for an out-of-court deal could be reached by December. The High Court last year set the stage for protracted proceedings on cases dating back decades in the largest class action suit yet in SA. Many of the nearly half a million miners who contracted the fatal lung diseases are from nearby countries who supplied labour to SA mines.

Gold miners are appealing that ruling, while at the same time, six of the firms, including Anglo American, AngloGold Ashanti and Sibanye are holding settlement talks with the workers.  Richard Spoor and Charles Abrahams, lawyers for the afflicted miners, told parliament’s mineral resources committee that significant progress had been made in those discussions.  “The parties are reasonably confident that a settlement will be achieved in the course of this year,” they said.  Any settlement reached will have to be confirmed by a High Court.

Ref: Mining Weekly

Tough demands from public service unions as wage talks start

BusinessLive reports that acting director-general at the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA), Sam Vukela, appeared before Parliament’s portfolio committee on public service and administration on Wednesday. He said the challenge of the ballooning public service wage bill was partly being addressed through a freeze on the filling of vacancies in the public service.

Meantime, public service unions have entered the 2017 wage negotiations with tough demands.  Among these are the abolishment of the bottom three salary levels in the public service, as well as the lifting of the moratorium on the filling of vacancies.  The unions want the salaries of employees from levels four to seven to be raised by 12%, employees from levels eight to 10 by 11% and those on levels 11 and 12 by 10%.  Vukela told the committee that all the labour demands made during the negotiations would cost the department about R483bn.

by Khulekani Maguban

NEHAWU KZN Provincial day of action

The National Education Health and Allied Workers’ Union  KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Day of Action is taking place tomorrow in Pietermaritzburg. The Day of Action will take the form of a march that will be directed to both the Premier and Provincial treasury. NEHAWU members will gather at Dales Park at 10am and march to the Provincial Legislature located at 244 Langalibalele Street where the premier, Willies Mchunu, will accept the memorandum of demands.

The march will then proceed straight to Treasury House which is located at 145 Chief Albert Luthuli Street in Pietermaritzburg where a memorandum will be handed-over to the MEC for Finance, Belinda Scott, at 13H00.
The march will also call for an immediate intervention to make sure that hospitals have enough staff across all sectors from doctors to cleaners and also for the insourcing of services like security, cleaners and all functions essentials for hospitals to fulfil their critical role of providing health services.