The SABC confirmed that it intended to retrench 981 permanent employees and 1 200 freelancers as a result of planned restructuring. File Photo: IOL

JOHANNESBURG – Management of the SABC on Tuesday met with organised labour in the first consultation meeting in relation to the contemplated Section 189 process, under the auspices of the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA).

The SABC confirmed that it intended to retrench 981 permanent employees and 1 200 freelancers as a result of planned restructuring in a bid to cut costs and save about R440 million per annum. 

The troubled public broadcaster had admitted that it was technically insolvent, and might not be able to pay salaries in April 2019 if things remained the same.

The retrenchment process was initially halted after a joint consensus-seeking meeting last month with organised labour, including the Broadcasting, Electronic, Media & Allied Workers Union (Bemawu) and the Communications Workers Union (CWU). 

SABC spokesperson Neo Momodu said the public broadcaster's meeting with the unions was constructive and that both parties committed to continue with the consultation in a CCMA facilitated meeting, scheduled for December 12 and 13.

"The SABC remains committed to complying with all the legislative requirements and processes relating to Section 189," Momodu said.

Meanwhile, the SABC board also briefed the portfolio committee on communications in Parliament on Tuesday about the section 189 process.

DA spokesperson on communication, Phumzile van Damme, slammed the SABC board, saying that it told Parliament of cosmetic savings such as restricting purchases of refreshments and no catering for meetings instead of presenting a plan detailing how extensive cost-cutting has been implemented.

"The SABC currently needs R3 billion in order to stay above water, and we would have expected the presentation of extensive, innovative cost-cutting measures which would not only steer the public broadcaster to calm waters, but also save the jobs of the estimated 2 200 staff it intends retrenching by February 1, 2019," van Damme said.

"Instead of saving itself, the SABC seems to be shooting itself in the foot by restricting profit-generating services. As an example the production of content has been reduced. It is the production and purchase of quality content which draws audiences and in turn, advertisers, the SABC’s main source of revenue."

African News Agency (ANA)