Johannesburg - Top union bosses are raking in thousands of rand for sitting on state companies’ boards, with some pocketing almost R40 000 a meeting.
National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) general secretary Frans Baleni, National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) president Cedric Gina and suspended Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi are current and former non-executive directors at the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA), the SABC and the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) respectively.
Baleni, the DBSA deputy chairman, was paid R366 300 for 10 meetings at nearly R37 000 a meeting, while Gina got R451 000 for 15 meetings at more than R30 000 each.
Gina resigned from the SABC board in March.
Details of the trade union leaders’ board fees are revealed in the entities’ 2012/13 annual reports, which were obtained by The Sunday Independent this week.
Vavi was paid R98 000 at an average of more than R16 300 a meeting.
He attended six meetings but was not present in two governance and ethics committee meetings held earlier this year.
Former Communication Workers Union general secretary Gallant Roberts attended seven meetings of the Media, Advertising, Information and Communication Technologies Sector Education and Training Authority (MICTseta), of which he is a board member, and was paid R84 000.
Roberts received about R12 000 for each meeting.
Media Workers’ Association of SA (Mwasa) general secretary Tuwani Gumani received about R67 000 for the six meetings he attended at just over R11 000 each.
Last month, labour relations registrar Johannes Crouse threatened to cancel Mwasa’s registration as a trade union because of failure to submit accounting records and audits and provide information to the registrar.
According to MICTseta, Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande has set remuneration of board members including chairpersons and their deputies at between R401 and R516 an hour, R3 207 and R4 125 a day or R808 119 and just over R1 million a year.
Political analyst Mcebisi Ndletyana said the appointments to boards of state-owned entities were simply patronage to soothe trade unions into backing the status quo.
Ndletyana said since 1994, union leaders were “pampered with perks”.
“This is patronage used by the ruling party to kill trade union radicalism. It’s very easy to be independent when you’re not indebted to anyone,” Ndletyana said.
In the 2012 book, Cosatu’s Contested Legacy: South African trade unions in the second decade of democracy, co-editors sociology professor Sakhela Buhlungu and Malehoko Tshoaedi wrote: “Trade union leaders are courted by both the political and business elites” and that “Cosatu unions remain important stepping stones for those who wish to take advantage of existing opportunities for upward mobility”.
According to a PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) report on non-executive directors’ practices and fees released earlier this year, 2 294 non-executive directors at 373 companies listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) attend an average of 31 meetings – including board and committee meetings.
The average annual fee for non-executive directors is R276 000, which PwC says is low by global standards.
Chairpersons are paid about R394 000 although large-cap industrial services companies average R2.1m.
PwC’s report is based on the 373 JSE-listed companies with a total market capitalisation of over R7.5 trillion.
Baleni, who is heading NUM during a tumultuous period when the union is shedding members to its rival, said other unionists including Vavi, Gina and Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim have been board members.
“The current general secretary of Numsa (Jim) used to be chairperson of a tender committee in the Eastern Cape,” Baleni said.
Jim said: “There is nothing wrong in sitting on boards as long as it is by workers’ consent and you advance worker issues. You do not remain silent when workers lose their jobs, have their benefits taken away, play golf and braai meat with bosses while workers languish under the board you serve in. The point of sitting on boards is to advance worker demands and not your career and stomach.”
Baleni said he had never failed in his duties as the NUM general secretary.
“All these areas we are deployed in are contested from a class context,” Baleni said.
Gumani said attending meetings as a board member was just the tip of the iceberg as non-executive directorship involved a lot of reading.
“Anyone who has sat on a functional board will tell you… but I’m not justifying board fees,” he said.
Gumani said there was a lot that a board went through.
“In fact, we deserve to be paid a lot more. Pay is minuscule and doesn’t speak to the work we do,” he said.
Gumani said it was wrong for non-executive directors to abuse the system to have more meetings to get paid more.
Gina said he was nominated by Cosatu and ensured that the workers’ voice was heard on the SABC board.
“Workers have an important role to play in state-owned entities, to keep them grounded,” he said.
Vavi’s spokesman John Dludlu said the suspended unionist had been in the trade union movement for 35 years and could not be distracted from the cause of workers.
“Vavi serves on the board because the IDC (Industrial Development Corporation) is an important player in the country’s efforts to resolve the problems of unemployment and this is interlinked to the federation’s own focus,” Dludlu said.
Other top unionists who are members of Seta boards include Numsa’s Alex Mashilo, National Council of Trade Unions president Joseph Maqhekeni, Southern African Clothing and Textile Workers Union general secretary Andre Kriel and Nehawu first deputy president Joe Mpisi.
Mashilo sits on the board of the Manufacturing, Engineering and Related Services Seta, Maqhekeni is on the Culture, Arts, Tourism, Hospitality, Sports Seta board while Kriel is on the Fibre Processing and Manufacturing Seta board.
Mpisi is on the Education, Training and Development Practices Seta board. - The Sunday Independent