Picture: Bhekikhaya Mabaso/Africa News Agency(ANA)

Cape Town - Trade unions have vowed to take steps against the cash-strapped SABC, should employees be negatively affected because of the public broadcaster’s late salary payments.

This comes after the SABC failed to pay its employees on time yesterday morning, due to a technical “glitch” with their banks.

Communication Workers Union’s general-secretary Aubrey Tshabalala said should employees be negatively affected by the late payments, it would consider taking action.

“If workers have a negative impact on their bank accounts, for instance when debit orders (are rejected) you are charged an extra fee, we will hold the employer accountable

“We will have to get a letter from the SABC to speak to the creditors of the workers. These are the things we will consider if need be. We are looking closely at the proceedings of the day,” said Tshabalala.

The SABC reported a net loss of R622million for the 2017/18 financial year, with expenses exceeding the revenue generated.

Due to its insolvency status, it is envisaged that 981 employees may be retrenched across all units and operations.

SABC spokesperson Neo Momodu assured employees that they would receive their money.

“The SABC reported earlier this morning (Tuesday) that its employees had not been paid their salaries as expected, due to a technical error experienced by the financial institution.

“The SABC would like to advise that the financial institution has resolved the technical error and salaries are being paid,” said Momodu.

Last year, the SABC was rocked by resignations when Krish Naidoo, Khanyisile Kweyama, John Mattison and Mathatha Tsedu - who made up the interim board that was appointed to resolve challenges at the public broadcaster - resigned.

In November, Tsedu told Parliament’s portfolio committee that the SABC would reach its day zero - the point where it would not be able to pay salaries - in March.

He said the public broadcaster would reach phase three at the end of January with limited revenue coming in, meaning the SABC could pay salaries and cover other costs.

“February, we might not even be able to pay full salaries. March will be our day zero, if nothing changes here,” Tsedu had told Parliament.

Naidoo said when he heard of the non-payment of salaries he thought that “somebody forgot to press the button or forgot to tell the bank”.

He said the public broadcaster might be struggling to service its debts “but there is definitely money to pay salaries”.

“There is a lack of funds at the SABC, but not to the point where they cannot pay salaries,” said Naidoo.

Another former board member, who asked not to be named, said yesterday’s incident might have been an honest technical glitch, but “the reality is that if there is no government guarantee the SABC will stop functioning at some point”.

Parliament’s portfolio committee on communications has given itself until the last day of January to fill the board vacancies.

Committee chairperson Hlengiwe Mkhize said processes were under way to ensure that the vacancies were filled as soon as possible.

“Parliament needs to register all applications, they have not finished that process. This is not a one-day event, but they said they might be done by the end of the week.

“On the matter of retrenchments, we have not yet interacted with the SABC. We will do that after considering the applications to fill in the vacancies,” said Mkhize.

With eight vacancies, the SABC board will not quorate to take crucial decisions.

The state broadcaster is currently engaging with trade unions and workers on possible retrenchments.

It is hoped that the interviewing process and the final approval of the recommended candidates by the National Assembly will have been concluded in February.

Political Bureau