Staff picket against retrenchments outside the SABC building. Picture: Brendan Magaar/African News Agency(ANA)
Staff picket against retrenchments outside the SABC building. Picture: Brendan Magaar/African News Agency(ANA)

Gloves off between SABC and unions - strike action to resume this weekend

By Siviwe Feketha, Siyabonga Mkhwanazi Time of article published Nov 21, 2020

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Johannesburg/Cape Town - The gloves are off between the SABC and workers after one of the unions said it will start with the strike action this weekend following a stand-off over retrenchment plans.

On Friday, the Communications Workers Union announced that there will be a blackout on the SABC as workers down tools.

CWU general secretary Aubrey Tshabalala made the announcement as SABC CEO Madoda Mxakwe said he will take the demands of the union that retrenchment plans be halted to the Board.

The industrial action is against the planned retrenchments of around 400 workers.

Tshabalala said the retrenchment letters against some of the workers must be withdrawn and retrenchment plans stopped immediately.

He said they were part of the section 189 process.

“CWU is party to this process and it has formally launched its dispute through the CCMA and has written to the public broadcaster formally to inform them about our demands,” said Tshabalala.

The CWU is organising alongside the Broadcasting Electronic Media and Allied Workers Union (Bemawu) at the public broadcaster, which is currently waging a legal battle in a bid to interdict the retrenchments instead of a strike action.

Tshabalala said the two unions were collaborating in their fight against the planned retrenchments.

“There is absolutely no division among the workers. We have taken a tactical approach. The right to strike of the CWU involves every worker at the SABC.

“It covers every worker. We have agreed because we have been ambushed by these laws, so overtime now we are getting smarter as unions.

“We have agreed to let us explore every opportunity we have,” Tshabalala said.

He said this included the unions dividing themselves on the pursuit of the strike action and the legal challenge.

“If we win there in court or in the strike, it is a win for all of us. Bemawu might not be official on the strike because it has taken that tactical approach, their members and non-union members will be on strike,” he said.

Since last week, SABC employees embarked on lunchtime pickets as they were anticipating the implementation of the section 189 process.

On Tuesday, the public broadcaster was forced to withdraw notices that had been already sent to workers after newsroom employees staged a revolt and refused to go on air in defiance. The SABC announced a day later that retrenchments were not off the table.

While the board and management have insisted that they had no choice but to implement the retrenchments and get rid of redundant posts if they were to deal with the corporation’s wage bill, the unions have accused the SABC of making workers the scapegoats for their failure to make the organisation profitable.

“It is critical that you have a management that has a vision, the plan and that is conscious about the revenue and how to build more revenue streams.

”We are with the SABC, not the management, in saying that there should be sustainable government grants to make sure that the public broadcaster’s mandate.

“I maintained all the time on issues of health, sports, education and many others because over 21 million citizens depend on it,” Tshabalala said.

Cosatu president Zingiswa Losi accused the SABC of sending the wrong example to the private sector as a public broadcaster by rushing into retrenchments to save costs amid SA’s generally bad economic state.

Various political parties that have openly rejected the SABC job cuts including the ANC, EFF and Cope.

Political Bureau

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