Ndabeni-Abrahams ‘respects’ court ruling on SABC retrenchment process, staff consulted on new structure

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Communications Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams says she respects the Labour Court’s ruling on an urgent interdict application against the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC).

On Wednesday, the Labour Court in Johannesburg dismissed with costs, Bemawu’s application to declare the Section 189 consultation process irregular and calling for the withdrawal of redundancy letters.

“We respect the proceedings of the court and the outcomes. But, of course, we have agreed, as we engaged with those that are responsible at the SABC, that they are going to continue where we left off, that is the 30 days that we must all go back to basics in terms of engagements and that is ongoing,” Ndabeni-Abrahams explains.

Addressing the National Assembly, on Wednesday, the Minister announced that she is in consultations with her counterparts in other departments to seek ways of resolving the current problems at the public broadcaster.

She maintained that market conditions are largely to blame for the situation in which the SABC has found itself. She said that most of the SABC‘s revenue comes from advertising, despite it being a public broadcaster.

New funding model 

Ndabeni-Abrahams further said her department and National Treasury are looking into a new funding model for the SABC’s public broadcasting mandate.

“We are currently considering the increment of TV licence fees subject to improve on collection methods. We recently published policies which propose the following interventions; the re-organisation of the SABC in view of the public slash commercial division debate; review of the funding model for public service model; and content of national interest. The SABC must review its signal distribution model to respond to the new normal and optimise on its signal distribution costs.”

Workshops on proposed new structures

Meanwhile, the SABC has been holding workshops with staff in different divisions to consult on the proposed new structures. This is part of the public broadcaster’s restructuring process which will see about 400 permanent staff lose their jobs.

Some of the workers who will be affected have already received letters of redundancy and surplus. However, the retrenchment process has been put on hold until the end of the month to allow for further engagements with various stakeholders.

“We have started consultation, as we had promised, directly with employees, per division. We are having workshops, and people can give inputs to the proposed structures, make recommendations and all those will be considered. That we’re doing during this month. Over and above that, we will also have a session, but that will now be with the participating parties, that’s just the unions and the non-unionised members, that will be facilitated by an external labour expert,” says SABC COO Ian Plaatjies.

The retrenchments have been met with fierce resistance by staff, unions, political parties, and civil society movements: