Organised labour has accused the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) of paying lip service to the Labour Relations Act in their drive to push forward with retrenchments. This is in response to a statement from the broadcaster’s Chief Financial Officer to the effect that despite the delayed 60 day consultation, they will start retrenchments at the beginning of February next year.
The CCMA mediated consultation was due to kick-start on Tuesday but had to be postponed so that unions could consider information packs.
The clock was supposed to start ticking at 10am Tuesday morning on the 28th floor boardroom of the SABC. Ahead of the meeting, labour unions complained that the SABC failed to disclose critical information and the CCMA agreed.
Within two hours, the mood was jovial as union representatives left the room triumphant with a huge bundle of documents from the SABC. However SABC Chief Financial Officer Yolande Van Biljon did not consider this as a setback.
“The deadline still remains in place and we will be sharing information and the process will then unfold. I’m not at this time able to say what we will be agreeing to when it will depend on probably the session in December will to a large extent drive the way forward.”
Media Workers’ Association of South Africa Tuwani Gumani found this statement disingenuous. “You can’t tell me about a deadline because you must tell me what you have done so that I can actually appreciate the deadline that you are talking about and up to now I have not seen anything, I have not seen a plan that the SABC has and that worries me a lot more. I’m not worried about the finances because we’ve been hearing about the finances but I want to see a plan not a short term plan a long term plan, you are not going to be able to turn the SABC around if you want to do it piecemeal rely on retrenchments. You get rid of 400 people you need a thousand what are you going to do then.”
The Communications Workers Union (CWU) raised the issue of the skills audit, insisting that this should inform any process going forward.
CWU’s General Secretary Aubrey Tshabalala, “Now in this current scenario it seems like SABC was very lazy to take time to look into all this process and why we are raising this particular issue is that you might find yourself retrenching the people that you really need to run the SABC going forward and hence we made egg of only goose that lay golden egg and you slaughter it.”
Broadcasting, Electronic, Media & Allied Workers Union (Bemawu) President, Hannes Du Buisson warned that history could very well be repeating itself. “ In 1997 there was a process; I was not closely involved in that particular process, all that I know is that a lot of people lost their jobs and that the SABC who rushed into that process had to rehire a lot of people immediately thereafter paying those people much more than what they earned as employees at the SABC and that is the situation we are trying to prevent. Of course a lot of those people never found jobs again as a result of the small broadcasting industry that we had at the time.”
The unions have two seven day window periods to consider the information packs and request further particulars. The process will sit for two days in December before everyone goes on leave. The December leave period will not be counted into the restarted 60-day consultation period. “