The Portfolio Committee on Communications has reaffirmed its position that retrenchments at the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) are premature.

In a statement the committee 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.”

The committee on Thursday was briefed by the Communication Workers’ Union (CWU), the Broadcasting, Electronic, Media and Allied Workers’ Union (Bemawu) and the Editorial Forum of the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) on the SABC’s intention to implement section 189 of the Labour Relations Act (LRA).

The SABC had announced possible staff retrenchments, saying it would consult with its more than 3 000 employees about their intention to cut jobs. Management also announced its intention to possibly retrench 600 permanent employees and cancel the contracts of around 1 200 freelancers.

The SABC cited its dire financial position as part of the reason it was opting to retrench employees saying it would simply not be financially viable for it to continue in the current form.

The committee said, “After listening to the labour unions yesterday [Wednesday], the committee became more resolute than ever that retrenchments should be put on hold to allow engagements with all stakeholders in a transparent manner.”

Committee Chairperson Mr Boyce Maneli said, “The committee supports the government’s position that every effort should be made to save jobs in all sectors of the economy and that retrenchments should be a last resort…”

Maneli added saying that the committee would invite the SABC to a meeting to discuss the consultation process.

SABC Board and Management appear before Parliament:

SABC unions, Editorial Forum express concern over impact of looming retrenchments:

The SABC Editorial Forum expressed concern over the impact of the looming retrenchments at the public broadcaster on its mandate to deliver news.

Labour unions and staff addressed the Parliament’s Communications Committee in a virtual sitting on Wednesday to discuss the SABC’s turnaround strategy as well as its recently released editorial policy.

The Forum’s Zolisa Sigabi said there has been a lack of transparency over the reason for the retrenchments.

“Neither the news staff nor the news senior management have sat in a meeting where the current state of affairs was analysed. For the first time in our newsroom’s history, news management was excluded from the process. Staff was only called to meetings where a draft structure was presented and they were given four days to make inputs,” Sigabi said.

She added that the Editorial Forum requested a copy of the proposed structure in advance “so that they could analyse it and make informed contributions, but our request was declined. To date, we have not officially received that structure as the news staff.”

Bemawu reacts to possible SABC job cuts:

‘Retrenchment process premature’

Trade unions at the SABC, the CWU and BEMAWU have told parliament that the current process of possible retrenchments at the SABC is premature.

BEMAWU’s Hannes Du Buisson says he is concerned that the SABC may retrench people crucial to the operation of the public broadcaster. CWU general secretary Aubrey Tshabalala expressed concerns, especially about the skills audit process.

Unions told the Committee that SABC management must first implement strategies to mitigate financial threats before embarking on any retrenchments at the public broadcaster.

Du Buisson says SABC management must implement its turnaround strategy in a manner that aims to save workers’ jobs.

“The SABC wants to focus, in the next financial year, energy and resources to continue serving the nation and defend the 71% audience share, should we not wait for the plans that the SABC’s going to put in place before we then say well we need to get rid of some people. The SABC says we have faced stiff competition from pay-tv new free to air broadcasters and OTT players.”

Full Statement below: