Broadcasting workers’ union, Bemawu, says it won’t remove its urgent interdict application in the Labour Court against the SABC, despite the public broadcaster’s decision to suspend the S189 process for seven days.

The union says the organisation’s move is aimed at derailing the multi-pronged action in progress and is not a genuine attempt to address the lack of consultation and resistance to laying off workers at the SABC.

This week, the SABC issued dismissal letters, terminating the services of more than 400 workers employees by 31 December 2020.

Bemawu wants the letters withdrawn and for the broadcaster to return to the negotiation table.

“Suspending the S189 process for seven days, but not withdrawing the termination letters means nothing. In fact, it is more prejudicial to employees, as the clock is ticking towards 31 December 2020. The SABC has issued termination letters after a defective consultation process. Suspending the process for seven days does not cure the defective process and its misplaced rationale.”

The en-masse dismissal of workers at the SABC is also opposed by political parties, trade union federations and civil society.

The public broadcaster has repeatedly said it has no option but to lay off workers to reduce its “bloated wage bill” to save the cash-strapped parastatal.

However, Bemawu says the organisation’s new structure doesn’t address the issues the public broadcaster claims to seek to fix.

“The SABC must first fix what they have identified as wrong before deciding to embark on a S189 process. By converting permanent employees to freelancers and outsourcing functions, does not reduce the headcount, and cost. It simply moves it from the permanent staff salary account to a different expense account. It furthermore deprives employees from benefits they have worked for for their entire lives. We know the SABC has been exploiting freelance workers for many years. By replacing its permanent staff with freelancers is doing so even more. Freelancers does not have benefits like leave, sick leave, UIF, Medical Aid and Pension. It means being sick or going on leave is on a no-pay basis. The S189 process must stop in its entirety.”

Unpacking SABC retrenchments with Natasha Moni:

Members of the Communications Workers’ Union (CWU) at the public broadcaster are embarking on strike on Friday.

They are supported by various political parties, including the ANC Youth League, which will be joining the industrial action.

Bemawu is also in support of the strike but won’t be able to take part due to their court application. They will, however, continue to partake in lunchtime pickets which staff members have been embarking on.

“We have opted to interdict the SABC in the labour court. The law says we can not embark on the strike. Actually if Bemawu members do participate in the strike it would still be protected for them, but they may lose their right to challenge the unfair retrenchment in the labour court. So our advice to our members is to fully support the strike and we fully support the strike to participate in all the lunch time pickets but not to participate in the strike for now as we are heading for the labour court,” says Bemawu President, Hannes du Buisson.