Johannesburg - Cosatu’s smallest affiliate, the Creative Workers Union of South Africa (Cwusa), has not been registered with the Department of Labour for nearly four months.
But Cwusa president Mabutho “Kid” Sithole insists this will not stop the union from intervening in the mass dismissals at SABC1 soapie Generations, which has an audience of nearly 7.5 million viewers.
This week a storm erupted when the public broadcaster and MMSV Productions terminated the contracts of 16 striking cast members.
However, it emerged this week that Cwusa, which publicly announced its willingness to mediate in the impasse, was not registered as a trade union.
Its acting general secretary Eugene Mthethwa said in a statement: “We are more than willing to mediate as it ought to be if SABC was to do things correctly.”
The registrar of labour relations, Johannes Crouse, confirmed that Cwusa’s registration was cancelled two days after the May 7 elections.
Cwusa’s name does not appear on this year’s August updated list of registered trade unions.
Sithole said Cwusa was working on reregistering and has asked for assistance. “We’ll be registered again,” he promised.
Sithole said the environment in which the union operated is seasonal and as a result the union often struggles to get members to pay their monthly subscriptions. Failure to keep up-to-date financial and membership records is among the reasons for deregistration.
Sithole told The Sunday Independent that Cwusa has just above 500 members.
Although none of the 16 Generations’ cast members is a Cwusa member, the union will contribute towards finding an amicable solution by the end of this weekend or tomorrow, according to Sithole.
“This is not a Generations but an industry issue,” he said.
He said they had no members at Generations due to the cast not facilitating meetings and the show’s bosses not allowing recruitment of members.
Sithole said Cwusa, however, did negotiate for the Generations cast to get meals on set.
In October last year, the group began “withholding services” after the SABC and MMSV Productions refused to address their grievances.
Their gripes include payment of royalties and syndication fees for Generations episodes broadcast worldwide as stated in their contracts. They argue it is international best practice for their employers to review payment rates and rationalise them in line with industry standards and norms.
They also demanded that cast members receive three-year contracts due to the intensity of the Generations shooting schedule, which means they are exclusively committed to the nation’s most popular soapie and unable to pursue other projects to supplement their income.
Sithole said it was very easy to get rid of actors and victimise them.
“The minute you know your worth, it’s easy to kill you in the script,” he said.
Sithole said the lesson about the Generations saga was that artists must learn to speak as a collective.
According to Sithole, artists, many of whom were not eligible for or did not have Unemployment Insurance Fund, retirement annuities and medical aid, must “stop this virus of individualism”.
“It’s time for us as gifted people to be gifted mentally,” said Sithole, adding that even farmworkers and domestic workers have sectoral determinations setting their minimum wages.
On Friday, Generations executive producer Mfundi Vundla admitted it was risky firing the 16 cast members but promised the soapie would be better and stronger.
In June 2012, Cwusa failed in its bid to have its member, actor Tony Kgoroge, paid compensation amounting to 24 months of work or alternative damages of R600 000 for the remainder of the “fixed contract of employment”.
Kgoroge was on an R80 000 monthly salary when M-Net allegedly dismissed him unfairly via a text message and in breach of a contract for his role in the daily drama, The Wild, in 2011.
Like the Generations cast members, Kgoroge also objected to a clause in his contract stating that actors did not share profit for the show’s rebroadcasts.
The Labour Court dismissed Kgoroge’s case, finding that he was not an employee and ordering him to pay M-Net’s legal costs.
The 16 sacked Generations cast members are: Anga Makubalo (MJ Dlomo), Atandwa Kani (Samora Lembede), Katlego Danke (Dineo Dlomo), Mandla Gaduka (Selwyn “Choppa” Maithufi), Menzi Ngubane (Sbusiso Dlomo), Nambitha Mpumlwana (Mawande), Patrick Shai (Patrick Tlaole), Slindile Nodangala (Ruby Dikobe), Sophie Ndaba (Queen), Seputla Sebogodi (Kenneth Mashaba), Thami Mngqolo (Senzo), Thato Molamu (Nicholas Nomvete), Winnie Ntshaba (Khetiwe Buthelezi), Zenande Mfenyana (Noluntu Memela), Zikhona Sodlaka (Priska Nomvete) and Zolisa Xaluva (Jason Malinga).