The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) will be called to a virtual briefing with Parliament’s Communications and Digital Technologies Committee next week Wednesday. This is according to Committee Chairperson Boyce Maneli who says their next meeting was only scheduled in July.

This comes as the SABC intends to embark on a possible retrenchment of staff members.

The  Democratic Alliance (DA)  and United Democratic Movement (UDM) have raised their voices over the possible retrenchments.

DA Member of the Committee, Phumzile van Damme,  says her party has noted media reports that the Public Broadcaster intends to embark on a retrenchment process.

About 600 permanent staff members could be retrenched and the contracts of 1200  freelancers could be terminated.

“We share the frustration and the anxiety of SABC staff members who are worried at this time that they could lose their jobs. We have asked that the SABC appear before the Parliamentary Committee of Communications as a matter of urgency so that they can brief us about their plans and we can satisfy ourselves that they have indeed considered all options and retrenchments are a very-very last resort,” says Van Damme.

The UDM says companies including the SABC should find other alternatives to save jobs instead of retrenching staff.

“When companies incur financial losses, there should be other attempts to ensure that the institution is saved without resorting necessarily to retrenchments especially during this difficult time when many people are losing jobs and South  Africa is going to be facing massive job losses around the corner,” says UDM Member of the Committee, Nqabayomzi Kwankwa.

The SABC was only expected to appear for a scheduled virtual meeting before the Committee in July. However, Maneli says the Public Broadcaster will be required back in a three-hour virtual meeting on Wednesday evening due to the latest developments.

Maneli says they have noted the letter on possible retrenchments at the Public Broadcaster. “The committee would have planned to call the SABC to appear before the committee in the next term. However, given the urgency and importance of the matters, the committee has begged the indulgence of Parliament to amend the programme to bring the SABC appearance before the committee on Wednesday 24th June 2020 at 18H00 to 21H00 hours. The virtual meeting will focus on the turnaround strategy presented by SABC to Parliament and includes the Human Resource pillar which will afford the committee the opportunity to engage this very important matter amongst others,” Maneli explains.

Unions at SABC react to the retrenchments 

The Communication Workers’ Union (CWU) says it was caught completely off-guard by the announcement. The union’s Clive Mervin says the SABC had an opportunity to engage the union’s three days ago.

“As the Communications Workers Union, we have never engaged with the SABC on retrenchments, so we have not had a formal discussion with the SABC. The only meeting we had as the national office bearers with the SABC was to discuss the whole issue of restructuring, and we have never discussed any issues on retrenchment, so they are acting in very bad faith. In actual fact, they are cowards instead of talking to us, they had an opportunity to engage us as the national office bearers in our meeting of three days ago.”

He elaborates on their stance on the video below:

Broadcasting, Electronic, Media & Allied Workers Union’s (BEMAWU) president Hannes du Buisson says, “Our remedy is to revert to the Labour Court on an urgent basis to stop this process. If the SABC claims that it consulted and that they are proceeding with the retrenchments, the letter that they served on us today said that the SABC has not made a final decision in this respect but most certainly SABC employees can be assured that we will not simply let the SABC make people lose their jobs.”

Du Buisson explains further in video below:

Meanwhile, the SABC says it will consult with its over 3 000 employees about plans to cut jobs and restructure the broadcaster.

Stressful time

It’s a stressful time for employees and a desperate time for job seekers, with added pressure caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The number of companies, both public and private, that are planning retrenchments is growing. Trade Union Federation, COSATU, has described the situation as ‘worrying’.

Reaction to retrenchments during COVID-19 pandemic with Labour Attorney, Natasha Moni: