Unions threaten to sue SABC over jobs bloodbath

Unions representing SABC workers have threatened to take legal action or go on strike should the public broadcaster proceed with proposed job cuts that will affect 600 employees.

This follows the broadcaster sending employees a letter in which it said it has concluded a Section 189 consultation process regarding retrenchments.

The SABC claimed this process had been completed according to the prescripts of the Labour Relations Act (LRA), which requires only four consultation sessions in 60 days.

“The SABC has in good faith, exceeded the prescripts of the Act, and completed 16 sessions in 120 days – nine bilateral sessions between the consulting parties and the SABC management and seven CCMA-facilitated sessions,” the letter stated.

“On the 6th of October 2020 during the fifth CCMA-facilitated session, the Commissioners concluded that the parties were not making any progress and each party must exercise their rights.”

“The consulting parties requested for another session and although management afforded them another two sessions, on Friday, 16 October 2020, at the conclusion of the 7th CCMA-facilitated session, it was clear that after four months of consulting that the parties failed to reach consensus,” the letter stated.

“According to the Labour Relations Act, the SABC is now at liberty to unilaterally implement the contemplated redundancies/retrenchments,” the letter added.

The broadcaster previously issued a notice of redundancies which it said would impact approximately 600 employees.

The SABC added although it considered the Section 189 process concluded, it will allow consulting parties to make one last written submission regarding proposals to the structure or alternatives for the SABC to consider.

Unions plan to retaliate

Bemawu, one of the unions representing SABC workers, has threatened to take the broadcaster to the Labour Court should it go ahead with the retrenchments without further consultation.

Spokesperson Hannes du Buisson claimed the consultation was not conducted in full compliance with the LRA.

“The parties were busy with consultation, and due to the fact that the SABC was properly and intensely questioned about its rationale and structures, in particular the structures where the SABC has increased senior management levels instead of decreasing it, the SABC terminated the consultation process via meetings,” Du Buisson stated.

“The Act requires the employer to fully and properly consult, and does not prescribe an employer must issue termination letters after 60 days. The 60 days is simply a safety measure built into the Act to prevent the employer to issue termination notices before the 60 days have lapsed.”

“Parties cannot reach consensus on issues not yet presented. At the time the SABC has not presented its structure as we were still busy with the rationale,” Du Buisson said.

He added that the organisation had never been invited to make alternative submissions for the impacted employees as claimed by the SABC.

“It is blatantly false to allege we have failed to make proposals,” Du Buisson stated.

Meanwhile, the Communications Workers’ Union (CWU) said it will consult with its alliance partners in the ANC on its planned course of action.

“Let us first say that we are disappointed that the SABC has walked out of the consultation on Friday and finally they pulled a plug on us. It was quite clear that we were denied the opportunity to get communication and questions and to ask for further information,” CWU’s Nathan Bowes told SABC News.

“There’s quite a number of proposals that we are discussing amongst others is a full-blown strike in alliance with Bemawu. We are planning to question the fairness because this has been unfair,” added Bowes.

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Unions threaten to sue SABC over jobs bloodbath