COSATU meeting with Eskom Special Cabinet Committee

The Congress of South African Trade Unions met with the Special Cabinet Committee that looks into the affairs of Eskom, Chaired by Deputy President DD Mabuza, yesterday, to discuss the proposed unbundling of Eskom by the government.  The meeting was also attended by President Cyril Ramaphosa. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss this plan and try to break the existing deadlock between the workers and government over this proposed restructuring/unbundling of the power utility.

COSATU remains totally opposed to any restructuring plan that will benefit the capitalist class and increase prices for the working class. The meeting did not succeed in breaking the deadlock between the workers and government but agreed that the process of engagement should continue at both the workplace and political level. Both parties agreed to meet again after the upcoming COSATU Central Executive Committee meeting set for next week.

Cosatu takes march over jobs to Parliament

Fin24 reports that union members affiliated to Cosatu are set to march to Parliament on Tuesday, as part of an effort to mobilise for pro-poor policies ahead of the national Budget speech and to protest against job losses. The Cape Town protest comes after the union held marches in big cities across the country last week to highlight the plight of the workers who are facing retrenchments from various sectors, including the prospect of job losses at Eskom, following an announcement  by President Cyril Ramaphosa that the power utility would be split into three business entities.

“We want the national budget to provide more resources for programmes which create more jobs and which promotes South Africa’s industrialisation,” Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) provincial secretary Malvern de Bruyn said. The federation, which is also a critical member of the tripartite alliance, has urged government to halt the introduction of Independent Power Producers (IPPs) to the national grid, arguing the process would also impact jobs on coal mines and power stations. The federation sounded a warning to the Minister of Finance, Tito Mboweni, ahead of his Budget speech, to regard the strike “as just a first warning of more mass actions to follow” should their demands fall on deaf ears.

by Sibongile Khumalo

Government to halt incentives for public servants

IOL News reports that South Africa’s 1.3 million public servants will not be receiving performance bonuses from April 2021 and will get reduced incentives for doing their jobs well from this year. The move will be in place pending a review of the state’s incentive policy and due to national and provincial departments’ failing to comply with the Public Service Act. This is a result of the government’s “current financial constraints, post the conclusion of the 2018 wage agreement and residual costs emanating the agreement”, according to the Department of Public Service and Administration.

However, the country’s biggest public sector union and largest Cosatu affiliate, National Health, Education and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu), has rejected the move, saying it was not consulted. The directive states that the inconsistent application of the government’s performance management and development system has resulted in payment of bonuses based on localised departmental incentive schemes, irrespective of the department’s actual performances or fairness. This was what necessitated the comprehensive review of what should constitute a defensible incentive scheme.

by Samkelo Mtshali

COSATU salutes and congratulates workers for a successful National Strike

The Congress of South African Trade Unions salutes and applaud the thousands of workers, who withdrew their labour yesterday and participated in the COSATU led National Strike. The strike communicated an unmistakable message to the political and business elite that the workers are ready to fight back. COSATU’s capacity to mobilise remains unmatched and we are grateful to our affiliated unions for mobilising workers and transporting them to the marches.

Typically, the strike was characterised by elevated discipline, unmistakable passion and a positive atmosphere. The federation will continue to remain occupied with the immediate concerns of our members, as well as with the broader social and political issues. While COSATU also remains committed to serving the interests of not just its members but of all the workers. The federation shall continue to work for the unity of the workers and the working class.

Sibanye signals prospect of 5,000 job cuts at Driefontein

Miningmx reports that precious metals producer Sibanye-Stillwater has signaled to unions that it may cut up to 5,000 jobs at its struggling Driefontein operation in the gold sector, three sources told Miningmx. This prospect has been raised in “Future Forum” discussions with unions, which are a regulatory requirement by the Department of Mineral Resources to address issues in advance including what needs to be done at troubled assets to restore them to profitability.

Sibanye spokesman, James Wellsted, said in response to questions from Miningmx about the 5,000 number at Driefontein that: “There is a possibility that if we don’t find a solution to losses at certain shafts, that there may be restructuring of that nature.” But he stressed that nothing was set in stone at this stage. Driefontein employs almost 11,000 employees, according to the company’s latest annual report.

by Ed Stoddard

Govt to engage with labour over Eskom unbundling

Fin24 reports that Public Enterprise Minister Pravin Gordhan will meet with Eskom’s board as a priority. According to a statement issued by the department of public enterprises (DPE) on Friday evening, apart from meeting with the board, a public consultation process with stakeholders, particularly organised labour, will also start “as soon as possible”.

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) in turn has called for the president to make a commitment that the restructuring would not lead to job losses. “We appreciate the President’s commitment to a just transition. But he did not say what exactly does that mean. Workers only want one thing. Job security,” Cosatu parliamentary coordinator Matthew Parks said in a statement. Eskom CEO Phakamani Hadebe told SABC’s Stephen Grootes in an interview following the SONA that the president has committed to not selling off key assets.

by Lameez Omarjee

NEHAWU currently finalising preparations for a strike

The National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union [NEHAWU] currently is finalising preparations for a national strike in all the Technical and Vocational Education and Training [TVET] and Community Education and Training [CET] colleges in the country. This strike action comes after the facilitation and conciliation processes under the auspices of General Public Service Sector Bargaining Council [GPSBC] failed to yield any positive results.

The union’s issues raised have been before the council since January 2017 after the department dismally failed to harmonize the condition of service for college employees since 2015 post the migration colleges to the Department of Higher Education and Training [DHET]. The union had numerous meetings with the department to try resolve our issues with no positive result and we ultimately had to follow the dispute resolution processes in the GPSSBC. NEHAWU members in all the colleges will be downing tools effectively from 06H00 am on 13th February 2019.

SA Medical Association tells medical interns not to go to work until salaries are paid

EWN reports that the South African Medical Association (SAMA) has called on all doctors and other healthcare professionals who have not yet received their salaries to not report to work until they are paid. The Gauteng Health Department last week failed to process the salaries of some new employees. Last week, doctors were informed that they will not receive their January salaries on time due to a delay in processing new details.

The association’s Dr Rhulani Ngwenya says that according to their agreement with the Gauteng Health Department, doctors who have not been paid would be allowed to go on special leave until they receive their salaries. “We discussed the issue with the director general of health in the national office, who has made an undertaking that she went and spoke to all the provinces.” But an intern at the Charlotte Maxeke Academic Hospital says that management at the facility has denied this. “The hospitals are now rejecting us and are now saying that they have not received any official communication from the department and that they will be rejecting the special leave and they will be taking that from the annual leave.” The Health Department in the province says that payments will be processed during the course of this week and the last group of workers will be paid by Thursday.

by Kgomotso Modise

Unpaid Gauteng doctors to receive salary payment after SAMA intervenes

News 24 reports that the South African Medical Association (SAMA) said it was “aware and concerned” about a communique circulating in some of the hospitals and provincial offices of the Department of Health regarding the non-payment of newly appointed doctors. “SAMA took drastic steps to ensure that payment of remunerations is effected accordingly,” the association said in a statement. This comes after  several Gauteng medical interns and community service doctors had come out claiming that they had not been paid their January salaries on January 28, after being served with a memo informing them of the delay due to administration issues at the Gauteng Health department.

“As a result, the Director-General of Health has made an undertaking that all the doctors affected by the circular will receive their payment by no later than Friday, February 1. “SAMA further made contact with provincial heads of department to ascertain as to whether payment will indeed be effected and received an affirmation in that regard that payment will be made timeously.” SAMA said it endeavoured to address all the issues affecting the profession and encouraged members and all doctors to send any other queries to SAMA for further intervention.

Health department relocating workers

eNCA reports that the Department of Health Head of Corporate Services Tiny Rennie stated the department is working on the recommendations given to them by building inspectors. Trade Union NEHAWU says workers at the Health Department head office in Pretoria are being forced to go back to work in unsafe conditions. The department has countered by saying they are trying to make the Civitas Building compliant with safety regulations but were only presented with the final inspection report recommendations on 15 January.

The inspection report recommended that employees be temporarily moved while the building was fixed. NEHAWU says they’ve tried to engage with Health Department officials, with little success.  Rennie explained the final inspection report was presented after numerous delays and the department is in the process of relocating health workers from the unsafe offices. She stated the relocation process would be completed by next week. Workers have withdrawn services and the department has issued a draft agreement to organised labour to negotiate a return to work. Rennie stated the unions have not officially responded to the draft agreement. The department will meet with workers’ representatives on Friday to present the final inspection report.