BEMAWU to serve SABC with papers regarding application to Labour Court

The Broadcasting, Electronic, Media and Allied Workers Union (BEMAWU) says it will serve the SABC with court papers on Monday regarding the union’s application to the Labour Court to challenge the public broadcaster’s decision to proceed with retrenchments.

The SABC missed BEMAWU’s Saturday deadline to respond to its letter requesting the public broadcaster to resume talks over the decision to retrench at least 600 permanent staff and not renew the contracts of more than 1 000 freelancers as part of its turnaround strategy.

The union’s president, Hannes Du Buisson, says the application is to ask the Labour Court to not proceed with issuing termination letters.

“If they’re not going to respond to the letter, as we speak we are currently drafting papers which will be served on them tomorrow (Monday) morning or during the day. That will be an application in the Labour Court where we want to ask for an order for the SABC to not proceed to issue termination letters and to come back to the table to properly consult with labour unions employees in terms of the Section 189 process.”

On Sunday, the Communication Workers Union (CWU) says it is considering strike action over possible retrenchments at the SABC.

The unions have accused the SABC of unreasonably refusing them an extension to the labour consultation process.

“Absolutely, that is what we are looking into. We have been having discussions and we can confirm as a labour movement that we need to take industrial action. The SABC management refused to engage in discussions. They presented a corporate plan which was questioned, but they don’t respond to the questions that have been raised. In the new structure that they presented, it appears that it is no longer a cutting cost exercise, but you can see that the structure will be bloated at the top and the staff are at entry-level,” said CWU General Secretary, Aubrey Tshabalala.

Tshabalala says the SABC turnaround strategy is not convincing as it keeps changing.

“It defeats the purpose when you say you’re cutting costs, but opening new vacancies that will basically cost you more. Secondly, SABC itself when we started the discussions, they talked about 60;0 now they’re talking about 200. On Friday last week, they said they’re not so sure of the number, so what is it that we need to agree on while the person that proposing is not sure of what he is doing?”

Parliament’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa), visited the public broadcaster’s head office in Auckland Park, in Johannesburg, on Friday to get first-hand information on the financial affairs of the organisation.

The committee said there are discrepancies in the information provided by SABC management and the data in the company’s annual financial statement.