The Congress of the People (COPE) has described the retrenchments at South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) as a betrayal of workers by President Cyril Ramaphosa and government.

The SABC indicated that it will retrench 303 employees. However, unions say more than 500 employees received letters of retrenchments.

The public broadcaster also slapped employees with termination of service letters on Monday, bringing their employment contracts to an end at the end of March.

COPE Spokesperson Dennis Bloem says the public must rally behind SABC employees and help to safeguard the public broadcaster.

“It is a total disgrace that the SABC is proceeding with these disgraceful retrenchments. The ANC (African National Congress) government is adding to the long list of retrenchment. President Ramaphosa and the ANC have betrayed the loyal hardworking workers. The government can’t look away when the livelihoods of thousands are at stake. COPE calls upon opposition parties, community based organisations, faith based organisations and all the people as a whole to rise up and support SABC workers. We must safe the jobs of the workers and the Public Broadcaster.”

Unfairly retrenched

Labour law expert Bukani Mngoma says  SABC employees, who feel they have been unfairly retrenched, can approach the CCMA or the courts for relief.

Mngoma says that the matter can be taken to the CCMA or Labour Court if internal processes do not yield results.

Key positions not yet advertised

The Section 189 process at the public broadcaster was meant to be completed at the end of February, but unions say that key positions in the corporation’s new structure have not yet been advertised.

The SABC has been advertising vacancies and has been interviewing candidates.

Bemawu’s Hannes du Buisson says, “There are a number of positions, most of them critical positions that have not been advertised and it seems like the SABC has no intention of advertising those positions. Some positions were advertised over the weekend by email. Some positions, the deadline has been set very short for people to apply for those positions. There’s going to be a lot of people being put out in the streets that should have been taken up by the organisation and should have been accommodated. The process is unfair and it is flawed.”

Du Buisson says many more workers will lose their jobs than were initially anticipated. He says they estimate that more than 570 staff members could leave by the end of March, well over the 300 the SABC said it needs to cut.

“We believe that there are over a 1 000 people that received letters, not just 300 people. We have preliminary figures of how many people applied for severance packages and also for retirement. It seems at this point in time that the figure by the end of March according to our calculations would be around 570 who would have exited the SABC. That is excluding the plus-minus 80 – 100 positions that the SABC has not advertised.”

Flawed

The Communication Workers Union (CWU) also feels that the Section 189 process has been flawed.

The union’s Aubrey Tshabalala says, “There was a process where people were supposed to apply for certain positions and they could not do so because the system at the SABC in terms of applications was not working at the HR level. There are people who were moved from surplus to redundant. That shows you that SABC management is completely not clear of what they are doing. We have 270 people who have applied for voluntary packages, SABC targeted 300 people, we should have forceful retrenchments of 30 people.”

Bemawu and the CWU say they could go back to the Labour Court over what they say are unfair retrenchments.

The SABC management did not want to comment now but says they will do so later in the week.

Unions on SABC Section 189 process:

Additional reporting by Pearl Magubane.