State accedes to union demands ahead of 2019 election

BusinessLive reports that seemingly in a quest to avoid a strike on the eve of the 2019 general election, the government has tabled a draft wage agreement with several proposals favourable to labour unions. But, the implementation of these proposals could lead to a surge in the public wage bill, which the Treasury has been trying to contain.  The draft agreement was tabled by government negotiators at the Public Service Co-ordinating Bargaining Council (PSCBC) last week.  Although there was no agreement on salary hikes, the government has given in to a number of demands, such as the removal of a spousal-benefits restriction that extended housing allowances to only one spouse if a couple was employed in the public service.

In return, unions lowered their demand for housing allowance increases from R2,500 a month to R1,500.  The establishment of a bursary scheme for children of public servants was one of the conditions agreed to, as well as a housing scheme proposal. Government has offered to hike pay for employees on levels one to seven by inflation (CPI) plus 1.5%; levels eight to 10 by CPI plus 1%; and levels 11 and 12 by CPI only for the first year of the three-year deal.  Workers now want salaries increased by CPI plus 3% for the lowest levels, with a 2% CPI add-on for levels eight to 10 and 1% for 11 and 12.

by Theto Mahlakoana

Department of Labour concedes blunder with definition of ‘worker’ in minimum wage bill

BusinessLive reports that the Department of Labour has conceded that it erred when it changed the wording of the definition of “worker” in the National Minimum Wage Bill. The bill, which was gazetted in November 2017, went against recommendations of experts and a National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) agreement.

In the bill, “workers” are defined as employees as per the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA), which would result in the exclusion of millions of independent contractors, subcontractors and task-based workers and limit the reach of the minimum wage coverage.  The department said on Wednesday that it was never its intention to deviate from the Nedlac agreement made between the government, business and labour and that it would correct the error.  Labour federations welcomed the department’s concession, but were concerned that the government was committing similar errors too often.

by Theto Mahlakoana

Private sector doctors to solve KZN oncology crisis

TimesLive reports that Durban still does not have a single permanent oncologist at its two state hospitals designated to address cancer treatment as the KwaZulu-Natal health department battles to lure specialists from the private sector. This was revealed by the department’s acting head‚ Dr Musa Gumede‚ during a media briefing to reflect on the health outcomes over a 10-year period from 2009 in Durban on Tuesday.

The last cancer specialist in Durban left the Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital in December‚ leaving with the province with only two oncologists at Grey’s Hospital in Pietermaritzburg. Gumede said the department decided to engage in the public-private sector partnership which started in October last year.

This resulted in a tender being awarded to an oncology consortium from the private sector that will service patients at Inkosi Albert Luthuli and Addington hospitals‚ which is expected to start next month.

A new site offering oncology services for Lower Umfolozi and Ngewezane hospitals in collaboration with JMG Group in Richards Bay in northern KZN has also been established.

NEHAWU update DUT strike

The National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union [NEHAWU] has been on strike at the Durban University of Technology [DUT] for the past three weeks over the wage dispute and financial mismanagement by the university. The national union is demanding a 10% wage increase across the board, R9000 once off bonus and Housing allowance.

The Deputy Minister of Higher Education visited the institution yesterday to try and resolve the three weeks impasse only to find that Prof Mthembu had locked himself in his office and claimed not to be around leaving the Deputy Minister frustrated. If he can avoid the Deputy Minister he can also equally avoid issues raised by workers and allow them to withdraw their labour for three weeks and destabilize any services and academic calendar of the institution. As NEHAWU, we demand strong leadership at DUT in order to end the current impasse between the national union and university management.

Denel can pay staff until March, but needs a long-term liquidity solution

BusinessLive reports that state-owned arms manufacturer Denel has managed to pay creditors and employees over the past two months, but still needs to find a long-term solution to its liquidity crunch, the company’s executives said on Tuesday. Denel, which faced a cash crisis in December when there were reports it would not be able to pay salaries, is engaging with the Department of Public Enterprises and Treasury to address its liquidity problems and, in the short term, is investigating the possibility of selling assets to generate some cash.

On Tuesday, Denel CEO Zwelakhe Ntshepe and chief financial officer Odwa Mhlwana replied to questions by members of Parliament’s public enterprises committee on recent developments in the company.  Ntshepe said Denel did not have a problem paying salaries in January and would not have a problem paying them in February and March, “but the issue of liquidity in Denel is a serious matter which has existed for a long time.  Denel has never really made serious money”.  “We are focusing on creating solutions to the inability

by Linda Ensor

NEHAWU SUSPENDS WITS STRIKE

The National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union [NEHAWU] has reached an agreement with the University of Witwatersrand [WITS] after protracted negotiations and a strike characterised by court interdicts and highhandedness by the untransformed university management.

The agreed salary increases [on a sliding scale] are as follows:
– Academics Post Grade 5-9 = 7%
– Professional staff Post Grade 5-8 = 7%
– Post Grade 9-15 = 7,8%
– Post Grade 16-17 = 9,2%
– And 10% increase for dog handlers, drivers, meal allowance per shift, night shift and night work allowances.

Parties also agreed to work on modalities to turn Wits into a high performance institution and motivate workers beyond salary increases. In this regard a committee to deal with this aspect will be established as a matter of priority. Parties further agreed on a committee that will work on addressing the issue of moving staff on Post grade 16-17 to midpoint of salary scales by the end of April 2018 and also advice council on modalities and take the issue of affordability and sustainability into account. Parties also further agreed that the principle of ‘no work no pay’ will be offset by workers filling-in leave for all the days that they have been on industrial action. Our other demands of (1) Night shift allowance (2) Long service awards and (3) Bonuses and (4) Harmonization of conditions of service will be addressed in the bargaining forum as per the signed agreement.

COSATU to make submissions on the Critical Infrastructure Protection Bill to Parliament today

COSATU will present its submission on the Critical Infrastructure Protection Bill (National Key Points Act) to the Portfolio Committee on Police at 11:45am 31 January, Room V475, Old Assembly, Parliament. The National Key Points Act was adopted at the height of the liberation struggle against the apartheid regime and thus is not in line with our democratic constitutional values.  It has long been abused to prevent workers from unionising and organising, exposing illegal activities and exercising their constitutional rights to protest.  This has affected thousands of COSATU members working at National key points across the country, state and economy.

COSATU engaged extensively on the Critical Infrastructure Protection (CIP) Bill with government at Nedlac and achieved the following critical victories for workers:
– Workers’ hard won constitutional rights to unionise, organise, picket, protest, disclose corruption and illegal activities will be protected;
– The CIP Bill will not interfere with workers’ rights as provided by key progressive laws e.g. the LRA, BCEA, PDA, PAIA, PAJA and the Constitution;
– Critical infrastructure (CI) designations will no longer be the sole and unaccountable prerogative of the Police Minister but include public comments, clear criteria and the recommendations of the CI Panel.
– The CI Panel will be chaired by the civilian Secretary for Police and include non-governmental experts.
– CI designations will focus on terrorist, criminal, natural and hazardous threats.
– Searches of persons entering CI must be done with regards to decency and order and by persons of the same gender.
– Prosecutions must be based upon transgressions with a clearly criminal and unlawful intent.
– The provision for Parliament to play an active oversight role.

Whilst COSATU is pleased that its above demands were met by government, it will make further proposals to ;further strengthen public participation in the designation of critical infrastructure by the CI Panel and Minister by specifically requiring public comments be taken into account when making such designations; and explicitly prohibit the strip searching of workers during searches.

SAMWU Welcomes Bargaining Council Ruling

The South African Municipal Workers’ Union (SAMWU) notes and welcomes the ruling by the South African Local Government Bargaining Council (SALGBC)  Gauteng Region that Mayor Herman Mashaba and his administration have been unfairly treating workers at the City of Johannesburg.  SAMWU is pleased to report that it had taken the matter to the SALGBC on the basis that these workers were unfairly treated by the City. On the 23rd January, the SALGBC ruled that the suspensions of these workers constituted unfair labour practice in terms of the Labour Relations Acts and as such ordered that the uplifting of the suspensions and that  they return to work by the 5th February. 

 In addition to the uplifting of the illegal and unlawful suspension of our members, a criminal ( 999/05/2017) which the City of Johannesburg had opened was withdrawn against the union’s members on the basis that there was nothing linking them to the so called “fraud and corruption”. Workers at the City’s Revenue Department are part of a larger group which have been dealt harshly by this administration. There are currently workers across the City who have been on suspension for almost a year without disciplinary action taken against them. Samwu says it will once again be approaching the SALGBC to have all suspensions to be ruled unlawful so that workers can return to work and service the communities which they were employed to. 

Mixed reaction to proposal of community service by students

The Sunday Independent reports that proposals by the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) that students would be required to commit themselves to 80 hours of community service in return for free education has been met with mixed feelings. While the EFF Student Command rejected the proposal outright, the ANC-aligned SA Students’ Congress (Sasco) and the DA Students Organisation (Daso) said they were amenable to the idea.  EFF’s Student Command president Peter Keetse said they were against the proposal as it would “demoralise the spirit of voluntarism” among young people, while it was not necessary for students to do work in return for free education which was rightfully theirs.

Dasco referenced DA’s shadow education MEC in Gauteng, Khume Ramulifho, who said the proposal would give students work experience.  Sasco’s Buthanani Goba agreed, saying, “The issue of community service is not a problem because we believe that students should be integrated into society and we must teach them patriotism.  But it should not just be those who benefit from free education.  All students must be required to give back to the community.”

by Lesego Makgath

SATAWU TO TAKE BUS WAGE OFFER TO MEMBERS

South African Transport and Allied Workers’ Union (SATAWU) will take employers’ offer to members for approval. There was very little movement registered for most of the week until Satawu and other unions made the following concessions in an attempt to move negotiations forward.
– Reduced the demand for across the board (ATB) increase from 20% to 16%
– Cut the demand for minimum basic wage from R10 000 to R8 000. The minimum basic wage in the sector is currently R6 076.
– Labour undertook to consider payment of annual bonus in employee’s birth month, provided employers agree to pay pro-rata bonus to workers terminating employment contract regardless of whether they were dismissed or not. Annual bonus is currently paid in early December each year.

In response, employers proposed parties sign a three-year wage agreement to be implemented from 1 April 2018 to 31 March 2021 with the following ATB increases:
– 1 April 2018 to 31 March 2019 (4.7%)
– 1 April 2019 to 31 March 2020 (5.2)
– 1 April 2020 to 31 March 2021 (5.7%)

Employers also proposed the same ATB increases for minimum basic wage for the three-year agreement. Responding to labour’s demand of six months maternity leave at full pay, employers offered four months maternity at 35% pay for the 2018/2019 year; 37% for the 2019/2020 year and 40% for the 2020/2021 year. Included in COBEO and SABEA’s offer are nominal increases for subsistence and travel allowances, night shift and cross-border allowance. Satawu will seek a mandate from their members on whether to accept the offer and report back to the Bargaining Council for the second phase of negotiations starting 12 February to 16 February.