The Communication Workers’ Union (CWU) has lambasted the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) for its decision to persist with the possible retrenchment of as many as 600 full-time employees.
The CWU says it is considering a strike with the Broadcasting, Electronic, Media & Allied Workers’ Union (BEMAWU) over the matter.
Earlier on Monday, the public broadcaster said it is now at liberty to unilaterally implement contemplated retrenchments after failed talks facilitated by the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA).
SABC to implement contemplated retrenchments
However, the CWU says the SABC has not shared detailed information of its new structure so that the unions can properly comment.
The CWU’s Nathan Bowes says the fairness of the SABC‘s decision is questionable.
“The CCMA, ourselves and the employer agreed that we will have subcommittee meetings and it was noted down but we had an agreement that we would engage now the SABC themselves playing games because at the end of the day we need to go back to our members with full info on the proposed rationale news structure. It was always the SABC’s intent to tick the boxes we will be engaging amongst ourselves in terms of getting secondary strikes to support the SABC workers,” says Bowes.
Bowes says they’ll leave no stone unturned in the fight to protect jobs of the SABC employees.
“We are saying to them they must come back to the table and not throw water with the baby but come like big boys and let us discuss as the minister said let’s find each other it won’t be but this is not about the SABC bosses it’s about the SABC employees and the entire South African society because as the public broadcaster we must really protect the jewel in out communications crown,” says Bowes.
The SABC’s retrenchment process
The 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 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.
The SABC says despite the prescripts of the Labour Relations Act Section 189 only requiring four consultation sessions in 60 days, it has in good faith completed 16 sessions in 120 days. It, therefore, says it is now in a position to proceed with the retrenchments.
It says it will afford the consulting parties one last chance to make a written submission regarding proposals about the structure or alternatives its consideration.
CWU reacts to looming retrenchments:
Unions plan to challenge the retrenchments
BEMAWU has threatened legal action at the Labour Court against the SABC should it proceed with its retrenchments without further consultation.
“We believe it is out about faith an unsensitive of the SABC to threaten employees at the time when there is huge uncertainty and coupled with the lockdown and COVID-19 threat. Should the SABC proceed with its threats to implement the Section 189 process unilaterally, BEMAWU will not hesitate to bring an urgent application to court to stop the SABC. The SABC has made certain undertakings and agreements that were done under the auspices of the CCMA and by law they are required to adhere to and honour that agreement,” says Hannes du Buisson, BEMAWU Spokesperson.
Du Buisson says they were still in the process of questioning the proposed changes when the SABC abandoned the talks on Friday. He further says previous consultation meetings were fully utilised to question the SABC’s rational behind the planned retrenchments of 600 full-time employees.
The Communications Workers Union (CWU) has vowed to fight side by side with BEMAWU against the planned dismissals, with a possibility of strike action against the employer.
CWU’s Nathan Bowes says they will consult with their alliance partners in the African National Congress (ANC).
“Let us first say that we are disappointed that the SABC has walked out of the consultation on Friday and finally they pulled a plug on us. It was quite clear that we were denied the opportunity to get communication and questions and to ask for further information. There’s quite a number of proposals that we are discussing amongst others is a full-blown strike in alliance with BEMAWU. We are planning to question the fairness because this has been unfair,” says Bowes.
The SABC is scheduled to appear before Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Communications on Tuesday.
Update on looming SABC retrenchments: Hannes du Buisson