Looming retrenchments at SABC cannot be avoided: Magopeni

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The Group Executive for News and Current Affairs at the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) Phathiswa Magopeni says the looming retrenchments at the public broadcaster cannot be avoided as the wage bill has to be reduced.

This week, 13 employees who are believed to have been irregularly appointed were dismissed.  The public broadcaster says they were appointed without following proper processes when former chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng, was at the helm of the organisation.

The SABC is currently at loggerheads with workers’ representatives over its plans to retrench around 600 permanent staff members.  The broadcaster says according to the Labour Relations Act, it is now at liberty to unilaterally implement the contemplated retrenchments after failed talks facilitated by the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation, and Arbitration (CCMA).

Magopeni spoke on SAFM earlier today.

“It is a very difficult process particularly for the newsroom that has to report on it. This process comes from the commitments that were made when the issue of the bailout was dealt with. So the commitments were made that we will reduce the wage bill and there were other conditions that were part of the process. And this was meant to address the issue of us having to go back and ask for another hand out at some point.”

Unions react

Unions representatives say they are disappointed that the public broadcaster is going ahead with the retrenchments. The Communication Workers Union (CWU) has threatened to call a strike with fellow union Broadcasting, Electronic, Media & Allied Workers Union (Bemawu) if the SABC forges ahead with planned retrenchments.

CWU’s Nathan Bowes says they will also consult with their alliance partners in the ANC on the matter: 

Bemawu  has threatened to take legal action at the Labour Court against the SABC should it proceed with its retrenchments without further consultation.

Bemawu Spokesperson Hannes du Buisson says: “Should the SABC proceed with its threat to implement the Section 189 process unilaterally, Bemawu will not hesitate to bring an urgent application to stop the SABC. The SABC has made certain undertakings and there was an agreement that was done under the auspices of the CCMA and by law, they’re required to adhere to and honour that agreement.”