The conflict between trade unions and the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) has escalated as the public broadcaster readies a round of job cuts that could affect 600 people.
The Communications Workers’ Union (CWU) previously said it was discussing the possibility of a “full-blown strike” and has now said that it will cause a complete blackout at the SABC if its workers are undermined.
“Should the employer become so arrogant that they undermine everything about workers, we must withdraw labour and that will lead to a complete blackout at the SABC of both radio and TV because that’s the last solution we have to look at,” the CWU told Eyewitness News.
A complete blackout would see the public broadcaster grind to a halt, being unable to broadcast content over its various channels.
The SABC has proposed implementing job cuts that will affect 600 employees in an effort to improve its financial situation, but unions representing SABC workers have threatened to sue the public broadcaster if it proceeds.
Earlier this week, Bemawu – one of the unions representing SABC workers – 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.
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 said.
Section 189 process completed
The public broadcaster had previously sent employees a letter stating that a Section 189 process regarding retrenchments has been concluded.
“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.
The SABC argued that according to the Labour Relations Act, it is now at liberty to unilaterally implement the retrenchments.