The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) says according to the Labour Relations Act, it is now at liberty to unilaterally implement the contemplated retrenchments after failed talks facilitated by the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA).

The public broadcaster, however, says it will afford the consulting parties one last chance to make a written submission regarding proposals to the structure or alternatives for its consideration.

The SABC has been in consultation with workers’ representatives over the past four months over its plans to retrench around 600 full-time employees. This is part of its restructuring aimed at making the organisation financially sustainable.

“We fully appreciate that the delay in concluding the Section 189 process is causing anxiety and uncertainty to all SABC employees and stakeholders. However, we had to ensure that we conduct this process in full compliance with the LRA and in the interest of the SABC and its employees,” says SABC GE of Human Resources, Dr Mojaki Mosia, in a statement released earlier on Monday.

According to the statement, despite the prescripts of the Labour Relations Act (LRA) Section 189 only requires four (4) consultation sessions in 60 days, the SABC has in good faith, exceeded the prescripts of the Act, and completed sixteen (16) sessions in 120 days: nine (9) bilateral sessions between the consulting parties and the SABC management and seven (7) CCMA facilitated sessions.

The statement further states that on 6 October 2020, during the 5th CCMA facilitated session, the commissioners concluded that the parties were not making any progress and each party was at liberty to exercise their rights. The consulting parties requested for another session, and although Management afforded them another two (2) sessions, it was clear that after the 7th CCMA facilitated session, the parties had failed to reach consensus, after four (4) months of consulting.

“Although the Section 189 process has been concluded and the consulting parties have failed to make any alternative submissions, in the interest of the possible affected employees, the SABC will afford the consulting parties one last chance to make a written submission regarding proposals to the structure or alternatives thereof,” reads the statement in part.

The SABC says the way forward will be communicated after it is approved by the necessary governance structures.

In July, the Portfolio Committee on Communications had reaffirmed its position that retrenchments at the SABC were premature.

In a statement, the committee had said, “It became clear to the committee during the presentations that the SABC management issued notices of retrenchment before conducting an open and transparent skills audit or consulting with relevant stakeholders. The committee then reiterated that the SABC should start the process again, from the beginning.”

This was after the committee had been briefed by the Communication Workers’ Union (CWU), the Broadcasting, Electronic, Media and Allied Workers’ Union (Bemawu) and the Editorial Forum of the SABC on the SABC’s intention to implement Section 189 of the LRA.