Communication Workers Union (CWU) held its virtual mass meeting with their members at the SABC yesterday (Jan 11th, 2021), following the announcement of the Public Broadcaster to lays off 303 workers by the end of March 2021. The shedding of jobs at the SABC came as part of the newly introduced turnaround strategy that is aimed at cutting the salary bill. The announcement came after the extended 30 days of the Section 189 consultation process. The extension was a result of the strike action pressure that threatened a total shutdown of the public broadcaster. At the end of the extended period of Section 189 (30 days period), the employer and labour failed to reach consensus on several issues with regards to the turnaround strategy. CWU remain opposed to the plan as it becomes clear that there are concerted efforts to commercialise the public broadcaster. The plan includes a “combo strategy,” on radio that will see a number of indigenous languages being marginalised over the so called “commercialised languages.” This will regress all the work that has been done and furthermore, will undermine the gains attained at the dawn of democracy in 1994. The strong view of the union is that the introduced turnaround strategy will not improve the financial standing of the entity. The erosion of the SABC in-house capacity to build content, replacing permanent jobs with casual workers (freelancers) and outsourcing key functions of the entity, will plunge the entity into deeper financial woes.
In the last meeting held on the 29th of December 2020, the SABC management failed to provide organised labour with the names of 290 workers that are affected in terms of the SABC plan. On the 8th of January 2021, SABC made an announcement that it will retrench 303 workers, contrary to their commitment at the Section 189 meeting where they indicated that only 290 workers are affected. Despite these shortcomings, the SABC management has commenced to issue letters of dismissal to workers. This proves once more that SABC has been negotiating in bad faith, as it failed to provide the list of the affected workers to their legal representatives. It is believed that more than 303 workers got letters as in some divisions such as “radio output,” all staffers received the letters. To date, it is unclear as to how many workers will be receiving these letters, and it would be difficult to monitor such as some workers do not belong to unions. The union is encouraging its members who received these letters to bring them forward.
After the 30-day period expired, both the SABC and the Unions met with the Communication Digital and Technologies Minister Stella Ndabeni – Abrahams and the Employment and Labour Minister Thulas Nxesi, to debrief both departments about their views with regards to the process. Furthermore, the ministry has requested the parties to make written submissions. It is in this spirit that organised labour awaited for the minister’s call for a meeting with all stakeholders to resolve all the outstanding issues.
A CWU virtual mass meeting held yesterday, resolved that CWU must call for a strike action in response to SABC management’s arrogance. The general membership has given a clear mandate to the union to initiate a program of action within seven (7) working days. The National Executive Committee of the CWU will meet before Thursday, the 14th of January 2020 to discuss the program of action; considering that the country is on lockdown level 3, with regulations that prohibits mass gatherings. However, that would not derail the union to take action within the said period in line with the parameters of the law. On Thursday the 14th of January 2021, CWU will serve the Public Broadcaster with the notice to resume its industrial action. On Friday the 15th of January 2021, a mass general meeting of union members will sit to uncover the plan of action.
Issued by the office of the General Secretary CWU
CWU General Secretary
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