Tag: labour

Retrenchments loom at SAA

Source: eNCA

South African Airways (SAA) has informed its more than 5,000 employees that it’s restructuring. It is estimated that about 944 staff will be affected – nearly 20% of the workforce.

The national carrier has had its fair share of financial turbulence.

But in the mid-term budget, Finance Minister Tito Mboweni announced that the state would pay off the airline’s R9.2-billion debt over the next three years.

The airline has incurred over R28-billion in cumulative losses over the past 13 years.

South Africa could be heading for yet another dark period, with an Eskom strike drawing near, according to The South African.

Having just recently posted a record-breaking R20-billion loss in the last financial year, the struggle power utility is now facing labour disputes.

Between 180 and 200 senior managers are dragging the utility before the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) after not receiving salary increases and incentive bonus in the past year. The managers earn between R1.5 million and R3 million per annum.

Eskom recently granted middle managers a 4,7% increase, but they are dissatisfied and are looking for 7,5%.

Yet a recent report on eNCA states that 365 senior employees have had lifestyle audits conducted on them.

Eskom’s vast wage bill, its poor financial management and its uncontrollable debt mean that load-shedding is likely imminent. The utility is struggling to generate sufficient supply – something that will anger South Africans as rumours of a deal brokered with neighbouring Zimbabwe to supply 400MW of power per week.

 

Employers: beware of unfair labour practices

By Ivan Israelstam, chief executive of Labour Law Management Consulting

Section 186(2) of the LRA defines “Unfair labour Practice” as “any unfair act or omission that arises between an employer and an employee involving-

(a) unfair conduct by the employer relating to the promotion, demotion, probation or training of an employee or relating to the provision of benefits to an employee);
(b) the unfair suspension of an employee or any other unfair disciplinary action short of dismissal in respect of an employee;
(c) a failure or refusal by an employer to reinstate or re-employ a former employee in terms of any agreement; and
(d) an occupational detriment, other than dismissal, in contravention of the Protected Disclosures Act, 2000 on account of the employee having made a protected disclosure defined in that Act.”

The word “unfair” is mentioned several times in the above definition. For example, under part (b) of the definition the section mentions “…any other unfair disciplinary action…” However, without an explanation of what ‘unfair’ means the entire definition of an unfair labour practice is meaningless. For example, there are many fair actions relating to discipline and many unfair ones. How do we distinguish between these? In addition to the definition of ‘unfair’ that I proposed above it is useful to examine the way in which arbitrators attempting to resolve labour disputes decide whether an act of an employer is fair or unfair.

In the case of Bosman vs SA Police Services (2003 5 BALR 523) Bosman and a black female had been shortlisted as candidates for promotion. The selection committee decided that the black female should be promoted for reasons of population group representivity. However, the committee was unable to prove at arbitration:

  • That the appointment of the black female would have promoted representivity and
  • That the black female was the best suited candidate

In the light of this the arbitrator found that the failure to promote Bosman was unfair and ordered the employer to promote her. The ‘unfairness’ decision here was made on the basis that:

  • Bosman had been proven to be the best candidate and therefore had the right to be promoted and
  • The decision to promote the black female was inappropriate because she was not the best candidate and there was no proof that her promotion would have served the purpose of affirmative action.

At the root of many “unfair” practices is the employer’s attempt to gain something. There is nothing wrong per se with an employer gaining something, as long as the employee or job candidate does not lose out unfairly as a result. Thus, an employer is entitled to protect its interests or save money by disciplining an employee or changing the employee’s benefits provided that the discipline is merited or the loss to the employee is justified.

As always, the challenge for the employer is to judge when its actions are merited and justified. Due to the complexity of the law such judgement cannot be done via guesswork. Every employer must therefore obtain comprehensive and in-depth expertise in labour law via the use of a reputable labour law expert and via training of all levels of management in the application of labour law.

Source: Fin24; The Citizen

The National Minimum Wage Bill submitted before the National Assembly on Tuesday is a historic achievement – a direct response to the call made in the 1955 Freedom Charter, and a first since the dawn of South Africa’s, Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant said on Tuesday.

The National Minimum Wage Bill, which sets minimum wages at R3 500 a month or R20 an hour, was passed with 202 votes from mostly ANC benches. The other two Bills, the Basic Conditions of Employment Amendment Bill and Labour Relations Amendment Bill also passed with the same number of votes.

All three Bills have been severely criticised by opposition parties, as well as Saftu.

All three bills were passed by the National Assembly and will be sent to the National Council of Provinces for concurrence.

“Every journey starts often with a small step. The journey to address the plight of the lowest paid workers reached a milestone,” she said. Oliphant added that even though the bills seemed “mild”, they are “groundbreaking” in character.

Referring to the “robust engagement” between social partners throughout the formulation of the bills, Oliphant said it is a reminder that democracy is alive and real in South Africa.

“We must recognise that we may not agree all the time, it is normal to disagree at times.”

The national minimum wage seeks to improve the lives of the lowest paid workers in the labour market and will address the inequality challenge in South Africa and by extension poverty, Oliphant explained.

A national minimum wage commission will also be established to take over the functions of the Employment Equity Commission. The commission will review the national minimum wage, currently at R20 per hour, annually.

Oliphant added that the Basic Conditions of Employment Amendment Billl has proposed amendments as a consequence of the National Minimum Wage Bill.

It is designed to reinforce and create an “enabling legal environment” for the national minimum wage. It also redefines the role of the Council for Conciliation Mediation and Arbitration on matters which may arise as a result of the implementation of the minimum wage.

The Labour Relations Amendment Bill in turn will give effect to a code of good practice on strengthening collective bargaining, preventing violent and prolonged strikes.

The bulk purpose of the amendments is purely administrative – preventing employers from side-stepping new legislation without following due processes, she explained.

“For far too long millions of South Africans [have sat] on the margins of economic and social progress,” said Oliphant.

The disconnect between those at the top and those at the bottom must be addressed, and the wealth creators and disadvantaged in society should be brought together.

African National Congress MP and chairperson of the portfolio committee on labour Sharome Van Schalkwyk hit back at claims that the committee rushed the process of considering the amendments.

She added that the R20 per hour rate is a starting point, increasing the income of more than six million South Africans. The benefit of this move will have a wider reach as these workers often have to support their families.

She also criticised the call by the South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) for a minimum wage of R12 500, calling it a “massive shock” to the economy.

“We must be realistic and not reckless in the process,” said Van Schalkwyk.

Democratic Alliance MP Michael Bagraim criticised the “undue and desperate haste” with which the bills ran through the portfolio committee.

He also raised concerns over the job losses that would follow. He noted that Saftu did not have a fair opportunity to make its submissions in the consultation processes.

Economic Freedom Fighters MP Thembinkosi Rawula also shared views that government should not exclude Saftu from making submissions.

Saftu is also against the national minimum wage of R20 per hour. It previously held marches across various cities in the country in a national strike in April, demanding a living wage.

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Costau) meanwhile issued a statement on Tuesday welcoming the finalisation of the bills. It has called for Parliament to adopt them speedily so that the president can sign them into law.

Cosatu has said that even though a minimum wage is not a living wage, a living wage cannot be legislated. “In fact no country has legislated a living wage.

“That is something that unions and workers must campaign for. That is something that government must work towards. That is something that business must be compelled to do,” parliamentary coordinator Matthew Parks said.

Cosatu also hit out at Saftu for slamming the Labour Relations Amendment Bill. Saftu believes the bill will make it impossible for trade unions to organise protected strikes, even after attempts for a negotiated settlement reach deadlock, the federation claimed.

Cosatu said the bill does not collapse the right to strike.

Uniting labour

Saftu acting spokesperson Patrick Craven told Fin24 that it is unfortunate that Cosatu supports the labour bills, but the federation has requested to meet up with Cosatu to discuss issues of “common interest”.

These comprise poverty, inequality, unemployment, privatisation and the VAT hike. Saftu has not yet had a response from Cosatu on the matter.

Cosatu spokesperson Sizwe Pamla said that the congress is aware of the request and plans to meet with Saftu within the next two weeks, once secretary general Bheki Ntshalintshali is back in the country.

“We want to explore a situation to unite workers when it comes to policy questions.” He said it is important to look at what unites workers, rather than the issues that divide them.

Source: Business Day

Nearly 12% of the South African workforce spent more than 60 hours a week on the job. This is despite SA’s labour laws prohibiting more than 45 hours a week.

Mining and retail are the two sectors in which you are likely to work the hardest in SA‚ according to a composite review of professions around the world.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation Development (OECD) says of the almost 50 countries sampled‚ SA was the fifth hardest working country with workers spending an average of 43.3 hours a week on the job. Looking only at jobs in the formal sectors‚ the OECD found the mining industry to be in the lead with workers putting in an average of 45.3 hours a week.

TimesLIVE spoke to Desire Mokoena‚ a mine production planner from Mpumalanga, who said mineworkers‚ particularly those in production‚ worked 12-hour shifts‚ mostly six days a week. Sharing her perspective from a woman in mining‚ Mokoena said that while the career could be rewarding‚ it was not always conducive for women.

She gave an example of sanitation for women working underground‚ concerns about personal safety‚ and the physicality of the work.

“As you advance forward [in the mine], you leave the toilets behind. As a woman‚ what are the chances of me having to go back to the [entrance] far away to walk to the bathrooms? It is not safe anymore. There are illegal miners underground so anything can happen. So normally the women would find a corner at the pillars and just relieve themselves … It is dark‚ no one can see you‚ but it is unhygienic‚” she said‚ adding there were no breaks in between the shifts.

Ten hours were spent on labour while the other two hours were spent travelling to and from the operations site underground.

“Underground‚ a lot of things need manpower. You pull cables‚ get onto a high machine, and remember‚ the ground is not level. They say it’s uncomfortable for women. Other women end up having back problems because of such things‚” said Mokoena.

According to the OECD‚ wholesale and retail came in second with workers clocking in an average of 44.7 hours‚ followed by finance and business services at 43.7, and transport and communication at 43.6 hours.

Lily Kok, who has years of retail experience, said, “Retail is one of the easiest industries to get into after matric. When you’re looking for a job‚ in most cases‚ retail would be the first to welcome you into the working field. So I think that’s the first option that people go for.”

With a six-day work week‚ averaging eight hours a day‚ Kok spends about 48 hours a week at work. Most of these hours are spent on her feet. “The only rewarding thing I would say is seeing your customers happy and pleased with the service you have given them‚” she said‚ suggesting there was not a lot of financial gain with the job.

60 hours a week

The OECD said nearly 12% of the South African workforce spent more than 60 hours a week on the job. This is despite SA’s labour laws prohibiting more than 45 hours a week and no more than 10 hours in overtime.

Quoting research from the Stellenbosch University’s Bureau for Economic Research‚ the OECD said men worked the hardest. “SA’s hardest workers are black men younger than 45 in a semi-skilled occupation and lucky enough to have a permanent job in a country with high unemployment.”

The study said women were more likely to work shorter hours‚ because they “tend to be more educated and work in the professional sector”.

But knocking off from work does not necessarily mean they are over for the day. For many women‚ leaving work means the beginning of another task — housekeeping.

“South African women without a housekeeper spend 183 minutes a day on housework‚ as opposed to 75 minutes for men. Women living with children also spent an average of 87 minutes a day taking care of them‚ compared to men‚ who spent seven minutes‚” the OECD said.

Working hours were shorter in more economically thriving provinces such as Gauteng and the Western Cape. These provinces had a high concentration of highly skilled workers.

According to the report: “The average working hours in these more affluent provinces is affected by migration from other provinces. The Eastern Cape also had some of the lowest working hours‚ but that was because so few people had permanent employment in the impoverished province.”

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