Furious SABC newsroom staff who threatened a blackout were successful in forcing the state broadcaster to withdraw its recently issued retrenchment letters.
Earlier this month, the SABC announced it will cut up to 400 jobs after exhausting all other options to ensure the sustainability of the business.
The SABC said it conducted 16 consultative sessions over four months with multiple stakeholders, which significantly exceeds the statutory minimum requirement.
The retrenchment plans followed other cost-cutting measures, like freezing salary increases for three years, reducing employee leave, and reducing sick leave.
When the retrenchment letters started to be handed out yesterday, SABC staff and unions threatened strike action.
Communication Workers Union (CWU) general secretary Aubrey Tshabalala said they have secured the rights to embark on a strike.
He further warned of a complete blackout at the SABC unless the company backtracks on its retrenchment plans.
Furious newsroom staff also voiced their unhappiness with the process and demanded a meeting with top management to address their concerns.
SABC News senior reporter Chriselda Lewis said they carried the broadcaster for years and put their lives in danger by reporting on the ground about the COVID-19 pandemic.
News reporter Mahlako Komane added that they made numerous sacrifices to keep the SABC alive.
Following these outcries, SABC management conceded that the retrenchment process was not preceded by proper consultation processes.
The pressure from staff and unions resulted in SABC group executive for news Phathiswa Magopeni committing to suspending the retrenchment process for news staff.
Minister of Communications to meet SABC board
The Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies, Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, together with the Deputy Minister Pinky Kekana, and other senior officials of the Department called an urgent meeting with the board of the SABC last night.
The purpose of the meeting was for the board and executive management of the SABC to account to the Minister on the merits of continuing with the retrenchment process currently under way at the SABC, in light of disturbing developments at the public broadcaster on Tuesday.
The Minister took the opportunity to implore the SABC board to consider all possible options, with an aim to preserve jobs.
This meeting also gave the Minister an opportunity to hear from all board members on the proposed retrenchments at the SABC, and to also consider the alternative voices of board members on the matter.
The SABC will appear before Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Communications this morning to provide an account of the retrenchment process, and any contingencies they have in place to mitigate the current strife with employees and unions.
The Minister will also provide remarks on the matter for considerations by the Portfolio Committee and recommend a way forward.
“I would like to call on the employees of the public broadcaster to exercise restraint and patience during this period of intervention by the Department and Parliament,” said Ndabeni-Abrahams.
Heated SABC newsroom exchange
The SABC published a video of the exchange between newsroom staff and executives, and the moment that Magopeni announced the process will be stopped.