The SABC board has announced that it will suspend the Section 189 process for a period of seven days.
The board had resolved on suspending up to 400 employees at the state broadcaster, but it soon faced a backlash from employees and unions.
The retrenchment planned followed other cost-cutting measures, like freezing salary increases for three years, reducing employee leave, and reducing sick leave.
The state broadcaster started to hand out retrenchment letters on Tuesday, which resulted in a heated exchange between employees and managers.
SABC group executive for news Phathiswa Magopeni committed to suspending the retrenchment process for news staff, but chairperson Bongumusa Makhathini quickly overruled her and said the layoffs would go ahead.
He explained the retrenchments were a board-approved resolution and part of the company’s turnaround plan.
The Communication Workers Union (CWU) then gave the SABC an ultimatum – retract letters of dismissals by Thursday evening or face the wrath of workers and a blackout.
The board said that suspending the retrenchment process for seven days will facilitate the exploration of other options.
“This will allow all stakeholders to further engage and explore further options in an effort to ensure the financial sustainability of the SABC,” the SABC said.
“The SABC is committed to meaningfully engaging with all its stakeholders as it continues to make the Corporation financially sustainable in order to fulfil its public mandate.”
Leave SABC presenters alone
Trade union Solidarity has weighed in on the Section 189 process, arguing that presenters and innocent SABC employees should be allowed to keep their jobs, while looters and corrupt employees should be dismissed.
“With irregular expenditure of more than R5 billion that is still awaiting condonation, or is subject to further investigation, it is reckless and merciless to retrench staff with no further ado, while the corrupt ones get away with murder,” said Solidarity CEO Dirk Hermann.
He said the national broadcaster’s financial situation is chaotic and that the loss of R511 million did not come about as the result of good employees.
“The big loss is the result of rotten management that plunged the broadcaster into a crisis through reckless decisions,” said Hermann.
“If rotten and reckless management is the problem, then the answer cannot be to get rid of your best staff.”