Picture: Karen Sandison/African News Agency (ANA)
Picture: Karen Sandison/African News Agency (ANA)

CWU to stage a strike over SABC job cuts

By Siviwe Feketha Time of article published Jan 14, 2021

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Johannesburg - Another massive strike is looming at the SABC as organised labour is fighting the slashing of hundreds of jobs.

The SABC management has identified the wage bill as among the biggest unsustainable drivers, which needed to be cut in order to improve the financial standing of the organisation.

Several workers have already received dismissal letters as the public broadcaster finally implements the sacking of 303 employees who are deemed redundant. This is part of the public broadcaster’s turnaround strategy, which requires a new, trimmed newsroom structure.

On Wednesday, the Communication Workers’ Union (CWU) rejected the SABC’s turnaround strategy saying it was at odds with the long term financial sustainability of the organisation.

CWU general secretary Aubrey Tshabalala accused the SABC management of eroding the in-house capacity to build content, replacing permanent jobs with freelancers and of outsourcing of key functions of the broadcaster.

“There are concerted efforts to privatise the SABC. This strategy is not going to make the SABC sustainable in the near future. Instead, it will drown it further because in their own plan they are saying for the next three years after these retrenchments they still have to freeze salary increases, meaning they are not in a position to improve the SABC financials these coming years,” he said.

Late last year, the SABC suspended the retrenchments and embarked on further consultations following a revolt and strike action by workers who threatened a blackout and who accused the management of having never consulted worker representatives on the new structure before imposing it on employees.

Tshabalala said the CWU and its members were not fazed by the SABC management’s reduction of retrenchment numbers from around 600 to 303, and instead accused the leadership of the broadcaster of having increased them from the 290 mentioned during their last meeting on 29 December to the current figure.

“The number is not dropping because the SABC wants it. It is because when we engaged them in the extended period, we demonstrated some of the positions are very critical,” Tshabalala said.

He further accused the SABC management of having ignored some of the alternatives it had put forward during its consultations.

“When you look at it, they never listened to us properly. They just thought we would be happy that the number is reduced,” Tshabalala said.

The SABC has indicated it was confident its retrenchment process would pass and withstand any legal scrutiny as it was preceded by thorough consultations.

Tshabalala however pointed out the union would not be looking to the courts but the picket lines to overturn the planned job cuts.

The CWU is set to serve a strike notice to the SABC today ahead of the meeting with workers on Friday where details of the industrial action will be announced.

The EFF has thrown its weight behind the SABC employees and slammed the firing of experienced workers.

“It is a shallow argument that is in line with the broader economic consensus in this country to dismantle national assets for the purposes of privatisation and capture,” the EFF said.

The EFF echoed the CWU and said the restructuring would minimise the capacity of the SABC to communicate in all African languages, which the SABC rejected on Wednesday.

SABC acting spokesperson Mmoni Seapolelo said the allegation that some radio services and news bulletins on free-to-air television channels were being discontinued was “completely false”.

“On the contrary, the radio stations’ proposed structures are promoting and supporting the current needs of audiences, such as digital accessibility,” Seapolelo said.

Political Bureau

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