ConCourt hears argument on leave to appeal over FSB’s dormant pension fund

BusinessLive reports that the Constitutional Court hearing on former deputy pension funds registrar Rosemary Hunter’s battle for a review of the Financial Services Board’s (FSB’s) dormant retirement-fund cancellations project concluded on Tuesday. Hunter asked the court for leave to appeal against an earlier judgment of the High Court in Pretoria, which dismissed her application to obtain a wider investigation into the cancellations project, with the investigator reporting to the court.  Hunter had also sought to compel the Minister of Finance to look into two notices of noncompliance against FSB head Dube Tshidi.

Counsel for Hunter, Tshidi, Hunter’s predecessor Jurgen Boyd and the minister each had a short time to plead over one day before the Constitutional Court in regard to whether Hunter should be granted leave to appeal.  “It is very hard to tell at this stage [how the Constitutional Court will rule],” Hunter commented on Tuesday.  “We will be in a position to comment only once the court has taken a decision on the matter,” said FSB spokesman Tembisa Marele.  This report goes on to detail the complex background to this dispute.

Eastern Cape gives cash injection to 26 hospitals

BusinessLive reports that the Eastern Cape provincial health department has set aside R300m to fill more than 1‚800 critical posts. The positions include doctors and nurses‚ as well as specialists for maternity sections, in 26 identified hospitals‚ including the Nelson Mandela Academic Hospital in Mthatha‚ Frere Hospital and Cecilia Makiwane in East London‚ and Livingstone Hospital in Port Elizabeth.

Provincial health spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo said the “R300m was allocated to the department to assist with human resource improvements in order to assist about 26 hospitals across the province, which were soft targets of medico-legal claims”. The recruitment process for the hundreds of health workers has already begun.

by Zine George

Gold mines report progress in preventing deadly silicosis

GroundUp reports data presented at the Mining Indaba in Cape Town suggest that gold mines might at last be making progress with the prevention of silicosis among miners. Silicosis is a progressive, deadly lung disease caused by silica dust, while affected workers are much more likely to contract TB.  Graham Briggs, retired CEO of Harmony Gold and convenor of the Occupational Lung Diseases Working Group (a collaboration between the six largest mining groups in the industry), said silicosis diagnoses had dropped 24% from 853 cases in 2015 to 635 cases in 2016 on the four gold mines in the group.

These are Anglo American SA, AngloGold Ashanti, Gold Fields and Harmony Gold.  Over the same period, cases of pulmonary TB had dropped almost 14% (from 1,666 to 1,436 cases).  Briggs also reported significant progress with the “Ku-Riha” project, which is aimed at dealing with the enormous backlog of unclaimed compensation and unprocessed claims.  From 2015 to 2016, settled claims leaped from 1,628 to 7,756, and total payouts to sick workers climbed from R79m to R226m.  But Briggs was much less forthcoming on progress with dust monitoring.  He said sampling frequencies and dust analysis methods had improved in recent years, but he did not give any detail.

by Pete Lewis

Parliament’s women’s caucus to host sex work summit

News24 reports that Parliament’s Multi-Party Women’s Caucus (MPWC) said last week that it planned to host a summit on sex work in light of the ANC’s resolution to have the practice decriminalised. The summit will be hosted on 5 March in Parliament and it will hear views from stakeholders on the South African Law Reform Commission’s (SALRC) report on adult prostitution, which was released in May 2017.  Sex work is currently a criminal offence in SA and the country has some of the highest rates of sexual violence in the world – particularly in the sex work industry.

Following the release of the SALRC report, which indicated a preferred option of retaining a totally criminalised legal framework, the MPWC said the full decriminalisation of sex work was the only way to protect the rights of sex workers and address the country’s HIV/Aids crisis.  At the time, caucus chairperson Masefele Morutoa said the authors of the SALRC report were oblivious to the fact that legalising sex work would allow sex workers to access the criminal justice system.  “This has been pivotal to the calls made by many sex workers calling for full decriminalisation,” she pointed out.  In a statement on Thursday, Morutoa said the caucus had received “huge” interest from the public who wished to comment on the matter.

by Jeanette Chabalala

What you need to know about new parental leave

Moneyweb reports that currently, South African employment laws provide minimum entitlements to specified leave types for all employees, such as annual leave, sick leave, family responsibility leave, and unpaid maternity leave of four months for female employees. These entitlements originate in the Basic Conditions of Employment Act, 75 of 1997. A proposed amendment to the Basic Conditions of Employment Act has recently been passed by the parliament in the form of the Labour Laws Amendment Bill (the bill) which would introduce, for the first time, the new leave type of Parental Leave. Although passed by Parliament, this bill still needs to go through the National Council of Provinces and then be signed by the president.

The bill specifies that an employee who is a parent of a child will be entitled to ten days parental leave, which may be granted from the day of the child’s birth or the day of the granting of a child’s adoption order. The bill does not specify paternity leave but rather makes provision for Parental Leave, which could apply to both male and female employees. For this reason, the Labour Laws Amendment Bill is unclear how this Parental Leave type is going to complement maternity leave, i.e. if a female employee takes maternity leave, is she also entitled to Parental Leave? The wording of the bill does not seem to exclude this. An explanatory memorandum to the bill states that the intention of the insertion of the provisions is so that “an employee who is a parent and who is not entitled to maternity leave, is entitled to ten days parental leave when that employee’s child is born or when an adoption order is granted”. Adoption Leave is also provided for whereby an employee who is an adoptive parent will be entitled to ten weeks consecutive Adoption Leave. The bill specifies that if an adoption order is granted in respect of two parents, one parent will be entitled to Adoption Leave (ten weeks) and the other to Parental Leave (ten days).

by Bradley Workman-Davies (director at Werksmans Attorneys)

Battle with FSB over cancellation of ‘orphan’ pension funds to be heard by ConCourt

Mail & Guardian reports that the battle over the cancellation of thousands of “orphan” pension funds — believed to total more than R20-billion — by the Financial Services Board (FSB) will now be taken up by the Constitutional Court. Former deputy registrar of pension funds Rosemary Hunter claims that a mass deregistration of orphan funds — shell funds left without any members or assets or dormant funds without boards — from 2007 to 2013 was unlawful and potentially prejudicial to pensioners and other beneficiaries.

In July 2014, Hunter filed a whistle-blowing report to the board of the FSB alleging the mishandling of the deregistration process, which saw the cancellation of 4,600 funds, without — Hunter said — proper oversight by the FSB.  This matter has a long history of investigations, reports and court cases, which is detailed in this report.  The rules for cancelling funds, as set out by the Pensions Fund Act, will be key to the dispute at the Constitutional Court this week.  Hunter’s counsel will argue that the FS’s reading of the Act disregards the duty of the registrar to check the compliance of trustees with the Pensions Fund Act.  The registrar cannot cancel merely on the say-so of “unlawfully” appointed representatives, says Hunter.

by Sarah Smith

Esidimeni families seek R1.5-million in damages

eNCA reports that lawyers representing the families of those who died in the Life Esidimeni tragedy will continue presenting their closing arguments before the arbitration hearings on Friday. The State and organisations representing the families agreed on Thursday that families should be compensated.

An amount of R200,000 they are to receive – for funeral costs and emotional shock – must still be reviewed by committee chairperson and retired Deputy Chief justice Dikgang Moseneke. More than 140 patients died in Gauteng after they were moved from the Life Esidiemni facility to ill-equipped NGOs.

Competition Commission unveils school uniform proposal

eNCA reports that the Competition Commission has made a tentative proposal that schools reduce exclusive contracts and open up the market for other suppliers of uniforms. The commission is probing the issue after it received complaints about high prices and anti-competitive behaviour. In an ongoing investigation into the R10-billion sector, some initial recommendations have been agreed upon, pending the finalisation of the probe.

The commission is pushing for an open market for suppliers who can compete fairly and provide affordability, especially for disadvantaged pupils. “Schools that decide to buy from particular suppliers sometimes shop within the schools themselves, but they should follow a competitive bidding process when appointing suppliers,” Competition Commissioner Tembinkosi Bonakele said. The commission says generic uniforms could be introduced with a separate school crest. It says it will release its report in coming weeks.

BMW SA opens training centre at Rosslyn plant

Engineering News reports that BMW Group SA (BMW SA) on Friday cut the ribbon on a new, R73m training academy at its Rosslyn plant, in Pretoria. The 6,000 m2 facility can host 300 apprentices a year.   BMW SA opened its first training centre at Rosslyn in 1978 and since then close to 2,000 training academy graduates have secured employment at the plant.  “Global automotive production stands on the brink of momentous change with an increased focus on digitalisation and electrification.

The workforce of tomorrow needs to keep pace with these trends,” commented BMW SA and Sub-Saharan Africa CEO Tim Abbott at the opening ceremony.  The newly built training facility focuses on theoretical knowledge and practical application.  An accredited trade test centre has been incorporated into the building, allowing learners to achieve their trade qualification in-house.  This functionality will also be extended to the public in the course of 2018.  Learnerships on offer to external candidates will be mechatronics and autotronics.  Trades to study include millwright, electrician, fitter, fitter and turner, motor mechanic, spray painter and panel beater.

Lifestyle audits for Eskom’s executives, senior managers and middle managers

Business Report writes that Eskom said on Friday that its executives and senior managers would be subjected to an independent lifestyle and conflict of interest audit as part of the power utility’s efforts to root out corruption. Eskom has been embroiled in a number of scandals which point to governance failures and apparent lack of accountability.  The newly appointed board has vowed to address governance problems at the utility.

Eskom spokesperson Khulu Phasiwe on Friday said the audit would affect Eskom’s executive team, senior managers and middle managers.  He indicated that there were 400 senior managers at Eskom.  Eskom chairperson Jabu Mabuza last week issued a stern ultimatum to employees involved in improper conduct, saying:  “We cannot have Eskom people supplying to Eskom.  Either you choose to be an employee or a supplier.  For all those doing this, we are giving you 10 days to come clean or face termination.”  Meanwhile, suspended Eskom senior executive Matshela Koko’s bid to stop the utility from firing him is due to go to the Labour Court on Tuesday.

by Siseko Njobeni