Competition Tribunal bars Lewis from retrenching for two years

Fin24 reports that the merger between furniture companies Lewis and United Furniture Outlets (UFO) has been granted by the Competition Tribunal, on condition that there are no merger-related retrenchments for the next two years. Following a hearing on 10 January, the matter was stood down to give time for further submissions to be made by the SA Commercial Catering and Allied Workers’ Union (Saccawu), which was concerned that the merger would lead to layoffs.

According to the union, Lewis had embarked on retrenchments in anticipation of the merger as an attempt to reduce the duplication of functions.  Previously the Competition Commission had concluded that retrenchments were unlikely to happen, but referred the matter to the Tribunal to make a final ruling. The R320m merger, announced by Lewis in October 2017, will see the company acquire UFO in an effort to diversify its offering.  The merger will come into effect from 1 February 2018.

by Lameez Omarjee

Sadtu and PSA reject state’s salary increase offer

The Star reports that the SA Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) has slammed the government’s offer of a salary increase of up to 5.3% for the lowest-paid public servants, saying politicians gave themselves more than that as a pay hike. Sadtu general secretary Mugwena Maluleke stated that the offer did not take into account that the standard of living of public servants would be affected by a negative increase.  Public sector wage negotiations continued on Wednesday at the Public Service Co-ordinating Bargaining Council (PSCBC) in Tshwane.  The talks took place under the facilitation of two CCMA commissioners.  The government is currently offering employees in the lowest 10 salary levels a consumer price index (CPI) salary increase, while it has proposed that the two levels of middle management get pay hikes of CPI minus 1%.

The University of Stellenbosch’s Bureau for Economic Research (BER) has forecast 5% inflation this year and expects it to increase to 5.3% next year.  The unions representing public servants are demanding salary increases of between 10% and 12% depending on the salary level.  The Public Servants Association’s (PSA’s) Tahir Maepa warned that if the talks were not concluded by a 31 March deadline, government employees might go on strike.  He added that the government’s wage offer was ridiculous and unions would not even bother taking it to their members.  According to Maepa, unions expect a revised and improved offer next week when negotiations resume and several concessions are expected to be made.  The government has already acceded to some of the unions’ other demands.

by Loyiso Sidimba

Domestic workers reject minimum pay increase

Cape Times reports that the union representing domestic workers has rejected the government’s increase in the minimum wage for domestic workers as contained in the recent amendment to the applicable sectoral determination. According to the figures set out by the Department of Labour (DOL) in the government gazette, domestic workers who work 27 hours a week or more must be paid a monthly minimum of R2,545.22 (Area A) or R2317.75 (Area ).  This is a 5% increase on the 2017’s rates.  The SA Domestic Service and Allied Workers Union’s Gloria Kente said:  “Why must we earn less than other sectors?  Domestic workers always get a small increase.

We want the National Minimum Wage of R3,500.  We work hard.”  Kente added that it was good the department recognised domestic workers, but they were not giving the increase workers expected.  She also said the department was not enforcing compliance from employers.  The DOL’s deputy director for employment standards, Mathilda Bergmann, said: “Due to the introduction of the National Minimum Wage which will be implemented on May 1, 2018, the Employment Conditions Commission recommended that the minimum wage levels for domestic workers be increased by the headline CPI.”

by Nicola Daniels

Nehawu and Sasco join forces at Unisa

TimesLive reports that the SA Students Congress (Sasco) and the National Health Education and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) have joined forces to shut down the University of SA (Unisa). This forced potential students to abandon their applications and registrations at the university’s Sunnyside campus in Pretoria on Wednesday.  The two organisations have consolidated their myriad of demands to the university‚ with Sasco saying it was practical for students to be in solidarity with the union as the workers were their parents.

Nehawu has deadlocked with Unisa management on the union’s demand for a 12% wage increase‚ with the university management offering 4.5%.  Sasco is demanding‚ among other things‚ the scrapping of students’ historic debt and the abolishment of application and registration fees.  Nehawu’s Ntsako Nombelane claimed that they had shut down all campuses of the university‚ saying the campuses would remain shut until their demands were met.  He said they were willing to settle for 9% if the university management was willing to negotiate in good faith‚ adding that the attitude of management was to stick to its 4.5% offer.

by Sipho Mabena

Wits vice-chancellor Adam Habib calls for compromise

BusinessLive reports that University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) vice-chancellor Adam Habib on Wednesday urged labour unions to exercise restraint in their wage demands. Saying the institution had a responsibility to ensure that salary increases did not compromise the university’s financial stability, he called on all role players “to start looking at the bigger picture” and compromise.  Wits’ offer of a 6.8% increase was the second-highest offer in the higher education sector, and was 1.8% points above inflation, he noted.

Nehawu and three other unions have threatened to strike over salary increases, the university’s new performance management system and medical aid benefits.  They are seeking an 8% increase, and an additional 1% to cover increased medical scheme premiums.  The unions on Wednesday agreed to enter into talks with management facilitated by the CCMA, a development which means that a threatened strike from Monday is now on hold.

by Tamar Kahn

Wits University workers threaten to strike

TimesLive reports that labour unions at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) have started mobilising for the institution’s total shutdown over a wage dispute.  Workers affiliated to National Health Education and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu)  and other unions have rejected a proposed 6.8% salary increase.  They are demanding 8% and are planning to close the institution, possibly next week, if Wits management does not meet their demand.

Nehawu Wits acting secretary, Tumisho Madihlaba, said the CCMA had granted Nehawu a strike certificate and their members would be conducting lunch-time pickets throughout this week in preparation for the strike.  He added:  “We are waiting for other unions to get their strike certificates but the big day is coming.”  Wits spokesperson Refilwe Mabula indicated that the university was offering a 6.8% increase for 2018 (and a 7% increase for staff on the lower grades), which was “the best offer that the university can make in the current financial environment.”

by Bafana Nzimande

NEHAWU TO GO ON STRIKE AT UNISA TOMORROW

The National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union [NEHAWU] is going on strike tomorrow [Wednesday January 17, 2018] at the University of South Africa [Unisa] after deadlocked wage negotiations between the national union and university management. Nehawu says that workers will not return to work until the university management sorts out the salary dispute and the absorption on a full time basis of all workers on contract since 2014 in the ICT department.

Nehawu’s demands are as follows:
– Across the board salary increase of 12%, while management is offering 6.5%.
– All council members stop doing business with the university with immediate effect. The union further demands that all council members cited and implicated in the state of capture report resign from council with immediate effect.
– The university to absorb all contract workers with immediate effect and stop exploiting our members in the ICT department as per the amendments of the LRA.

The union believes that Unisa can afford the 12% salary increase that workers are demanding and is being disingenuous when they plead poverty. In this regard, the national union has taken a decision to go on a full blown strike in all campuses across the country until its demands are met.

DUT employees strike

Groundup reports that employees at the Durban University of Technology (DUT) who went on strike on Monday morning have vowed to continue with it until their demand is met. They found the office of the institution’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Thandwa Mthembu closed when they went to hand him a memorandum. They are striking for an annual salary increase. The workers are asking for 10%, but the university is offering 4%.

The chairperson of Nehawu, Mike Mbatha said they won’t go back to work until Mthembu told them when they would get their increase. Communications Manager at DUT Noxolo Memela said the institution had not concluded its 2018 salary negotiations in time for implementation on 1 January 2018.

by Zimbili Vilakazi

workers to strike at Dis-Chem Pharmacies nationwide

The Citizen reports that workers were preparing for a strike at Dis-Chem Pharmacies across the country over the recognition of its organisational rights. Part of the action would take place at the Dis-Chem warehouse in Midrand, Johannesburg.  The strike is expected to begin at 5am on Wednesday.  According to the union, Dis-Chem has refused to grant it organisational rights in terms of section 21 of the Labour Relations Act (LRA).

The dispute was referred for conciliation to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) in December 2017, but the matter remained unresolved. A certificate of non-resolution concerning organisational rights was then issued by the CCMA commissioner.  “This gives our members the right to strike after giving seven days’ notice in terms of section 21 of the Labour Relations Act,” Nupsaw indicated in a statement.

Ref: ANA

Lewis ordered to submit acquisition affidavit

Business Report writes that the competition Tribunal has ordered retailer Lewis Group to submit an affidavit pertaining to its acquisition of high-end furniture retailer United Furniture Outlets (UFO) valued at R320million. This after the South African Commercial Catering and Allied Workers Union (Saccawu) made submissions at the tribunal hearing in Pretoria yesterday, arguing a link existed between Lewis retrenching hundreds of workers and thereafter acquiring UFO, the cash retailer of luxury household furniture which Lewis aimed to take to the rest of Africa. However, Lewis, which has more than 700 stores, retorted that it was not strange for businesses to retrench and acquire on the other hand.

In March 2016, the furniture group said that it had completed a R250m acquisition of a portfolio of 57 Ellerines and Beares stores in four southern African countries, expanding its store presence outside of South Africa to 120. The Competition Commission said there were no competition concerns arising from the proposed merger between Lewis and UFO. It was unlikely that a link existed between Lewis retrenching and then acquiring UFO, but Saccawu’s head of department, Khulekani Nguba­­ne, said Lewis had retrenched about 400 employees since December 2016, in anticipation of the UFO transaction. Competition Tribunal chairperson Norman Manoim concurred that they did not have information on the Lewis decision to start retrenchments and the timing of the acquisition and whether the two issues were linked. He then ordered Lewis to submit an affidavit to that effect.

by Luyolo Mkentane