The Communication Workers Union (CWU) has given the SABC until noon on Monday to respond to their demands or face intensified strike action. The union wants an immediate end to the retrenchment of 400 permanent staff and the withdrawal of redundancy letters that have already been issued to some workers. It is also calling for the board to be dissolved and for the SABC to be placed under administration.

This week, the public broadcaster suspended its retrenchment process until the end of next month to allow for further engagements. This as lunchtime pickets continue at the SABC’s headquarters in Auckland Park, Johannesburg. Last Friday, the CWU members embarked on a strike, while Bemawu took the legal route. Political parties and trade unionists have been joining the workers on the picket line since they began the demonstrations.

One of them is the ANC Youth League’s, Collen Malatjie. He says: “We know very well that the inequalities of the country, affect the Black majority. It can’t be that we come here at the SABC again to engage on a matter that is obvious. Now, it’s very important that we join hands with everybody and work very hard to make sure that our workers are not retrenched.”

The SACP’s Lulamile Sibanda slammed the board’s attempt to lay off workers. “We stand with workers of the SABC, that the attack on the workers of the SABC is an attack on all of us. We do not think comrades a soberly thinking management collective will retrench workers at a time when we’re in a midst of a pandemic. Secondly comrades, we want to lambaste the board of the SABC, we don’t think that a conscious board, a competent board, will retrench workers at a time when unemployment is rising.”

Thabiso Lehoko, who works at the SABC’s Channel Africa, is among the employees who have received letters of redundancy.

“For the past 13 years or so I’ve been serving the SABC, as a bulletin writer and a presenter. I must say I’m very heart sore by this whole situation. I wish the SABC could approach this from a certain perspective, and not laying off workers.”

Consultations continue between SABC unions, management and staff:

Addressing the picketers, CWU General-Secretary Aubrey Tshabalala reiterated the union’ demands.

“The fact is that the strike is not over, up until the retrenchments are withdrawn completely. Furthermore comrades what’s important is that members of CWU and Bemawu must continue to meet inside, let’s discuss on a strategy. CWU will call on all the political parties that have supported us in our offices to define a way forward with a collective leadership so that our struggle becomes a consolidated struggle.”

SABC COO, Ian Plaatjies, promised to respond on Monday.

“We take this very seriously, I will try to meet the 12 o’clock as you know we’re waiting for the labour court decision as well it may be after 12, then it will be after 12, but I will respond on Monday.”

Meanwhile, judgment in Bemawu’s urgent application against the planned retrenchments is also expected to be delivered next week.

The Labour Court in Johannesburg reserved judgment earlier on Friday.