The Broadcasting Electronic Media & Allied Workers Union (Bemawu) has accused the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) of continuously changing its organisational structure information during the Section 189 consultation process without consulting the unions.

Bemawu also says the public broadcaster failed to provide adequate reasons for presenting different structures to the unions.

Unions at the SABC have been engaging with the public broadcaster regarding the possible retrenchment of 600 full-time workers.

Bemawu president Hannes du Buisson says the SABC’s approach to the matter has caused massive confusion. “Even in the facilitated consultation meetings from Tuesday to Friday, the structure has changed. Of course, the SABC will deny that. They have denied that there is massive confusion in particular because the SABC has opted to not consult. We have been forced now to consult with the SABC on paper and we are getting one-liner responses from the SABC.”

Unions at the SABC want the public broadcaster to opt to release 450 employees: 

‘Alternative solutions’  

However, SABC COO Ian Plaatjies says the unions failed to present alternative solutions to the SABC in the prescribed time. Plaatjies also says the unions seem to have rejected the SABC’s explanation of how a corporate plan is developed.

“In terms of the CCMA and Labour Relations Act, that’s very clear. We’ve got 60 days to conclude this. So they had within the 60 day period an opportunity to present us with alternative but also criteria. They failed to do that. Moreover, the organisation actually extended that by double the time and we took 120 days and they still didn’t come to the point of giving alternatives and recommendations.”

SABC COO Ian Plaatjies on alternative solutions for the SABC:

Plaatjies adds, “It’s sad that they are numerous occasions where we try to explain what a corporate plan is and how a corporate plan is developed, they still choose not to understand that.”

Voluntary retrenchment packages

Earlier Bemawu said it has proposed to the SABC that it offers voluntary retrenchment packages for up to 450 employees over the age of 55 and avoid retrenchments. The union argued that job losses at the public broadcaster are avoidable.

Bemawu also said the SABC will soon reach its staffing targets through attrition and there is no need to axe staff,  especially during these very difficult economic times.

The SABC announced in June that it could retrench as many as 600 permanent staff.

The public broadcaster has been in consultation with workers’ representatives over the past four months.