Eskom starts load shedding as protests over 0% wage increase hit home

The Citizen reports that load shedding was officially confirmed shortly before 6pm yesterday, as striking workers pulled the plug on national electricity utility Eskom. The confirmation came in the form of a tweet from Eskom spokesperson Khulu Phasiwe, who said there would be stage one load shedding last night. In a statement shortly thereafter, he said load shedding would take place between 5.45pm and 8pm. This came just hours after Eskom admitted South Africa faced a real risk of load shedding, and asked South Africans to reduce their electricity consumption by switching off geysers, pool pumps, heaters and non-essential appliances within the peak hours of 5pm and 8pm.

The power utility confirmed earlier yesterday that at least four power stations were severely “constrained”.  According to Eskom, the power stations which were most at risk were Hendrina, Camden, Kendal, and Arnot. Deputy Eskom spokesperson Dikatso Mothae also confirmed they had filed court papers for an urgent application to force workers to return to work today. Electricity at the power utility’s Megawatt Park head office was also temporarily cut yesterday, supposedly by striking workers as the strike intensified. Pickets were staged across the country against the 0% salary increase the cash-strapped state-owned entity had decided on. Workers have given Eskom seven days to respond to their demands. Failure to do so will result in a national shutdown.

by Simnikiwe Hlatshaneni

NEHAWU Limpopo Unhappy With Non-Payment Of Performance Bonuses

The National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union [NEHAWU] in the Limpopo Province is unhappy with the continuous and uninterrupted decline of working conditions of workers in the Limpopo Department of Health. While workers have for many years tolerated shortage of personnel and material resources, things have now gone worse since workers’ benefits are not paid. The department still refuses to pay performance bonus to workers for financial year 2016/17. These are benefits which were supposed to have been paid by July 2017. On the 10th April 2018, the Limpopo Department of Health tabled a budget of R19, 5 billion which is an increase from R18, 6 billion but two months later the department pleads poverty that it can’t pay workers their benefits.

According to NEHAWU, all the departments in the Province have already concluded payment of workers benefits for the 2016/17 financial year, but it’s only the department of health that arrogantly refuses to pay workers their hard earned Performance Bonuses but yet insists that health is an essential service. The unions indicated that workers have now lost trust on boardroom engagements because the employer has completely failed to address their issues. NEHAWU has already started mobilizing its members for mass action which will culminate in a huge march towards MEC of Health, MEC of Treasury and the Premier’s office.

NEHAWU wants MEC Phophi Ramathuba:
1. Non-payment of overtime
2. Grade progression for all health professionals.
3. Consistent translation of nurses who acquired post-graduate qualification with back pay
4. Appointment of 108 non-bursary holders’ community service nurses who are currently roaming the streets while there is shortage of professional nurses in hospital and clinics
5. Absorption of community health workers as full time employees of the department

New PIC board to include unions

Business Report writes that the government is set to make drastic changes to the running of the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) with an amendment that guarantees unions at least two places on the fund manager’s board. A draft bill on the board was passed by the legislators last month and is now waiting for President Cyril Ramaphosa’s signature before it comes into effect.

The draft bill makes sweeping changes to ensure transparency and greater worker participation. It says the finance minister must, in consultation with the cabinet, determine and appoint the 10 non-executive members and the PIC chief executive and chief financial officer as executive members. The bill says the 10 non-executive members must include a representative of the National Treasury, a representative of each major depositor and two or more, but not more than three representatives of a registered trade union, whose members are the majority of the members of the Government Employees Pension Fund (GEPF).  It says union representatives will be selected at the Public Service Co-ordinating Bargaining Council based upon their proportional composition.

by Kabelo Khumalo

Gordhan calls on Eskom board to rethink

Business Report writes that Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan has called on the Eskom board to determine a wage increase it could offer to its employees as the standoff between the utility and its workers continued. The Department of Public Enterprises yesterday said Gordhan met representatives of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) on Wednesday “to understand the concerns from organised labour about the wage dispute with Eskom and related matters”. The department said Cosatu expressed concern about the manner in which wage negotiations have been conducted, Eskom’s insistence on a zero percent wage “offer”, and allegations that the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement programme was crowding out jobs in the mining sector.

Gordhan committed to discuss the resumption of negotiations with the Eskom board. Eskom has so far maintained that it could not afford a wage increase, given its precarious financial position. It has said that the decision not to offer a wage increase was part of efforts to set the utility on a path to financial stability.

The unions yesterday protested at Eskom’s premises.The power utility yesterday said that the industrial action had affected power supply. Eskom spokesperson Khulu Phasiwe said that could compromise the utility’s ability to keep the lights on.

by Siseko Njobeni

NUM rubbishes claims Eskom workers are among higgest paid

ANA reports that the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) said on Thursday that it was “deeply angered” and concerned by a claim that employees at Eskom are among the highest paid in the country and earn an average salary of around R789 000 per year. “Our members do not earn that kind of money. This a lie. It is a serious insult to our members who are currently being offered a zero percent increase by Eskom. [The] Apartheid wage gap still exists at Eskom and black women are some of the lowest paid at Eskom,” NUM spokesperson Livhuwani Mammburu said.

Economist Mike Schüssler tweeted on Tuesday that the average employee at the power utility earned R789 000 annually. “The average remuneration per employee at Eskom was R789 000 for the year to March 17. On average they fall within the top one percent or two percent of household income. When richest two percent strike SA has a victimhood problem,” Schüssler said in a tweet. Workers unions are currently embroiled in a wage dispute with Eskom as they demand up to 15 percent salary increments while the embattled power utility offers them a zero percent increase.

Ugu municipality residents still without water

BusinessLive reports that residents and businesses on the KwaZulu-Natal south coast say they are still without water, despite a “truce” between Ugu district municipality and its workers who had gone on a wildcat strike. According to residents, there has been no respite and the taps have been dry for between nine and 27 days due to the strike. The provincial government declared the region a disaster zone on Thursday and sent technicians and support staff to help restore water supplies. The workers were demanding that the municipality stop docking salaries for last year’s illegal strike. They were also demanding to be paid for overtime during the Easter weekend, among other grievances.

The municipality said workers aligned to the South African Municipal Workers Union (Samwu) had gone on an illegal strike and sabotaged the provision of water by tampering with its systems. But Samwu denied these allegations. Although a deal was agreed to on Friday last week that effectively ended the strike, workers only started returning to work on Saturday. On Wednesday some residents said they still did not have water. Ugu municipality spokesperson France Zama was said to be on leave and Dhanpalan Naidoo, the municipal manager, could not be contacted as his phone rang to voicemail. But on Tuesday, Naidoo told journalists that the municipality was doing all it could to restore water to all affected areas. A team from the municipality was working with personnel seconded by KwaZulu-Natal premier Willies Mchunu to iron out differences between the municipality and the workers who had been on strike.

by Chris Makhaye & Nce Mkhize

Violence in SA schools — by pupils against teachers

BusinessLive reports that as teachers battle with assaults by pupils at schools‚ the Department of Basic Education says it has measures in place to ensure pupils are held accountable for their actions. The step-by-step process to be followed by the department in disciplining pupils who attack teachers at schools is:
– The pupil is suspended from school for five days.
– After five days of suspension‚ a disciplinary hearing is held.
– When the hearing is concluded‚ the pupil is sanctioned.

Sanctions‚ according to Limpopo education spokesperson Sam Makondo‚ vary depending on the type of offence the pupil has committed. “The sanction can be anything between expulsion of the learner or relocating them to another school.” According to the South African Schools Act‚ assault is one of the offences that can lead to expulsion as it is viewed as serious misconduct. In April‚ the Sunday Times reported that hundreds of pupils have faced disciplinary action in the past year for offences ranging from assault‚ intimidation‚ drug dealing and sexual violence. According to the report‚ Limpopo education officials alone have handled 942 cases of serious pupil misconduct in the past 12 months.

by Nomahlubi Jordaan

Government to offer civil servants voluntary retrenchment packages

BL Premium reports that thousands of public sector workers over the age of 60 are to be offered voluntary retrenchment as part of an effort by the government to cut its salary bill.  The decision to offer voluntary severance packages — the first such offer in 20 years — follows the conclusion of a new three-year wage agreement last week that bust the state budget by about R30bn.  The consequence of this, said the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) in a statement, was that measures to contain costs had to be taken.  These would include: encouraging early retirement by topping up pension funds for those who took the package; reviewing the government’s performance management and incentive systems; and more effective management of allowances.

The DPSA said on Wednesday it was too early to say how many jobs would be affected.  Assuming a savings target of R30bn over the next three years, the government would need to cut salaries by R10bn a year, which would imply scaling down thousands of jobs.  The cost-containment plan would, however, come at a cost as the government would need to pay upfront to top up pensions to the level retrenchees would have reached at retirement age.  A proposal for voluntary retrenchment was tabled by the government in earlier rounds of the public sector wage talks, but removed after objections by trade unions.

by Carol Paton
Ref: SALabournews

Govt commits to saving jobs in steel industry

Engineering News writes that the South African government said on Tuesday that it will continue to work with the steel industry towards averting job losses in the sector, adding that it has put in place measures to save the steel industry from collapsing. This emerged when officials from the Department of Trade and Industry (the DTI) briefed their relevant portfolio committee on the status of the steel industry and interventions that government was deploying to assist the industry stay afloat.

Acting chief director of primary minerals processing at the DTI, Dr Umeesha Naidoo said that since the onset of the crisis in 2015, government has established a task team which intervened to save the steel industry from threat of closure and loss of capacity. Naidoo also said that there was an agreement on a set of principles for flat steel pricing in SA that is priced appropriately to ensure that steel-dependent industries are competitive. This is also aimed at ensuring that the upstream steel mills remain sustainable. The department also reflected on the US’s Section 232 duties against steel imports, saying that it will continue advocacy efforts with the US counterparts focussing on trade and investment relations.

Ref: ANA

Body of missing Sibanye-Stillwater employee recovered at Kloof mine

Mining Weekly reports that mine rescue teams have located and retrieved the body of the fifth employee who went missing at Sibanye-Stillwater’s Kloof Ikamva mine.  “The bodies of all five employees who entered an abandoned area on Monday have now been recovered and sadly five colleagues lost their lives in this tragic accident,” Sibanye said in a statement on Thursday morning.

The precious metals producer added that a thorough investigation by management and the Department of Mineral Resources and other stakeholders would be performed to understand the events and actions leading to the incident.