The Broadcasting Electronic Media and Allied Workers Union (Bemawu) says it’s regrettable that the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) management has threatened employees with disciplinary action if they participate in Friday’s lunchtime picket against the planned retrenchments.
The union says workers do not need permission to exercise their basic constitutional right of freedom of expression in a peaceful manner.
The SABC plans to lay off over 2000 employees, including permanent staff and freelancers to cut costs. The picket will take place between noon and 1pm at all SABC offices nationwide.
Bemawu’s Hannes du Buisson says management has sought to label the picket as a shutdown, which is not the case.
“Employees received several notices from the Group Executive of Human Resources, Mr Jonathan Thekiso, so employees indicated that they’re severely intimidated by this action of management. Of course we have sought legal advice it is absolutely not illegal. We regret the intimidation from the side of SABC management,” says Du Buisson.
The SABC Management says it respects employees’ right to protest as long as the broadcaster’s operations are not affected. SABC COO Chris Maroleng says staff should respect the law as they engage in protest.
“We have indicated to them that we would not necessarily oppose attempts for them to picket directly today. We have just called upon our essential staff to ensure that if they do join this protest action that is planned today, that is it not in any way infringing on their commitment to ensure that our broadcast continues as planned.”
SABC management says the move is necessitated by the current financial crisis facing the corporation. It says it will start consultations with the unions on the impending retrenchments from Tuesday next week.
The Communication Workers Union (CWU) has called on all SABC workers to join Friday’s lunchtime picket.
CWU General Secretary Aubrey Tshabalala says, “During the protest we’ll also be giving the memorandum to SABC management in KZN, Cape Town and Auckland Park. We’ve also invited the department of Communications; we’ll also be giving them a memorandum. So it’s very important that everyone supports this call so that we drive a message to the management of SABC that there could be other alternatives to be used, instead of retrenching all the workers.”
Cosatu to join SABC employees
The trade union federation, Cosatu says its members will come out in their numbers to join today’s lunchtime picket by SABC employees.
Cosatu national spokesperson Sizwe Pamla says, “We expect as many members of Cosatu as possible who are available to join the workers at SABC in solidarity. We find the SABC Boards’ decision totally unacceptable. We are in a state of paralysis in this country. If the only strategy to deal with the economic challenges facing the country and the state is to really get rid of workers we find it upset… that this taking of livelihoods is being normalised and seen as a solution.”
The nationwide picket will take place at all SABC offices at noon. Management says the move is necessitated by the current financial crisis facing the corporation.