The SABC headquarters in Auckland Park. File picture: Karen Sandison/African News Agency (ANA)
Cape Town - The news that the SABC might not be able to pay workers in the next three months because of a cash crunch has left labour unions fuming.

Cosatu and the Communications Workers Union (CWU) on Friday warned they would not allow the retrenchment of any workers at the SABC.

Earlier reports emerged that the public broadcaster’s board chairperson, Bongumusa Makhathini, had said the SABC would soon be compelled to shed some jobs to plug the hole in its balance sheet.

The report also maintained that Makhathini said there was no guarantee that workers would receive their salaries in the next three months.

But the labour federation and its affiliate would have none of it.

CWU general secretary Aubrey Tshabalala said they were surprised the board was now coming up with the story that workers might not be paid.

He said the government had to intervene as a shareholder.

“At the moment, we are sitting with a crisis,” said Tshabalala.

Cosatu said it would not allow the SABC to cut any jobs.

“The public broadcaster cannot continue to call for engagements with labour when they have long resolved that retrenchments are their only preferred solution,” said spokesperson Sizwe Pamla.

Tshabalala said the SABC was not engaging in good faith and they would oppose any move to retrench workers.

The broadcaster’s spokesperson, Neo Momodu, could not be reached for comment and did not respond at the time of going to print.

The public broadcaster, which has been plunged into crisis over the past couple of years, is sitting on a wage bill of R3.1billion.

In the last financial year, it suffered a loss of more than R600million.

Makhathini reportedly said despite its efforts to raise money from the banks and government, it had not been successful.

The latest reports come barely two years after the government trying to create stability at the broadcaster.

Recently, the SABC fell out with the South African Football Association (Safa) over money it offered to air Bafana Bafana game fixtures.

Safa chief executive Danny Jordaan allegedly cried foul over the figure the broadcaster had put on the table, which was described as disastrous.

William Bird, executive director of Media Monitoring Africa, said it was a devastating position for the public broadcaster to find itself in the current situation and that it should be a concern for all South Africans.

“The question we have to ask is why the National Treasury has still not given them their guarantee so they can go and get money and make sure that their salaries are guaranteed.

“Eskom has been wasting money left, right and centre, Transnet has been wasting money left, right and centre as, indeed, has South African Airways and they get bailouts at the touch of a button,” Bird said.

He said that for the SABC it would not be a bailout but a guarantee to allow the public broadcaster to function.

“I think it’s outrageous that they are being forced into a position like this, especially when the financial crisis is not of the current SABC board’s making,” Bird said.

Political Bureau