Labour unions demand meeting with President to discuss issues at SABC

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Labour unions are demanding an urgent response and meeting with President Cyril Ramaphosa to discuss ongoing issues within the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC).

The Communications Workers Union (CWU) and Broadcasting, Electronics and Media Workers Union (Bemawu) took to the streets on Wednesday, to embark on the first leg of this week’s protests.

Unions are pleading with the government to put an end to the Section 189 process and are also calling for the complete removal of the broadcaster’s current board.

SABC workers once again gathered at their usual meeting spot on Wednesday – this time set on taking matters further than before.  The employees led a procession to the Union Buildings in Pretoria, bringing the M1 North to a standstill.

SABC workers leading a procession to the Union Buildings in Pretoria – bringing the M1 North to a standstill.

Joined by other organisations who are in solidarity with grieving employees, the crowd finally made its way to the building’s gates, where the memorandum would be delivered.

“The President before he took over, promised South Africans one million jobs. But now what is happening is the complete opposite. We are fully behind the unions, who are fighting for the workers at the SABC,” says the provincial convener of the National People’s Front Bhekani Ntshangase.

Congress of the People Member of Parliament Dennis Bloem says the board must resign. “We are saying this board and everybody who is harassing these workers, they must resign immediately or we must fire them immediately.”

COPE’s Dennis Bloem joins SABC strike:

Musician Eugene Mthethwa says the government should bail out the SABC.

“As the music industry, we were made by the SABC through radio and tv stations. We cannot allow the SABC to die while we fold our hands; we are saying to the government bailout SABC and stop retrenchments.”

SABC News Economics Editor Thandeka Gqubule-Mbeki says the process was done in an inhumane way: 

Bemawu shop steward Charles Cicero says; “We are here today, very sad as labour. We are the ones that have kept that SABC afloat for many years. In the next years, they are gone, leaving us while the ship is sinking. These people have to fend for their families, they are not fair today.”

The listed demands in the memorandum included the removal of the current board and turnaround policy, as well as investigations on all tenders awarded since 2018.

“Retrenchments are not mere numbers. Those are warm bodies; those are breadwinners for large families. Many people lost their jobs due to COVID-19 and some employees are feeding extra heads there. We, therefore, call that the board with immediate effect be replaced with administrators. We have seen that in many SOEs. The entire turnaround strategy should be scrapped since it takes away the responsibility of the broadcaster; we ask what is special about Afrikaans and English, creating tribalism,” says CWU Secretary-General Aubrey Tshabalala.

CWU Secretary-General Aubrey Tshabalala at the Union Buildings. 

The SABC refutes tribalism claims and adds that the turnout in the day’s events is telling of how understanding employees have become towards the Section 189 process.

“This has been a process that has carried on for six months and the organisation has extensively consulted on the process. You can see by the turn out that employees understand the need for doing that and don’t want it to be a situation like Denel where thousands would be affected,” says SABC COO Ian Plaatjies.

More protest action is expected this week, workers will be embarking on a go-slow on Thursday and a total blackout this Friday.