Picture: African News Agency (ANA)

Cape Town - Unions have warned the SABC not to use the skills audit process as a means to retrench workers after the public broadcaster abandoned its plans to invoke Section 189 of the Labour Relations Act.

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

Communication Workers Union (CWU) general secretary Aubrey Tshabalala said: “We welcome the SABC’s decision to halt retrenchments and embark on a skills audit. We are also cautious that it should not be used as another method to retrench workers.

“Skills audit must be used to access how best you implement or come about with a turnaround strategy,” said Tshabalala.

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

Tshabalala said the government would have to bail out the broadcaster for it to generate revenue and function to its full potential.

“We are also saying government should bail out the SABC, there is no other way.

“The SABC relies on two revenues, we have to come up with new models and ways to generate revenue,” said Tshabalala.

The SABC receives 85% of its revenue from advertising, sponsorships and other commercial partnerships, 3% from the government and 12% from TV licence fees.

It has mainly attributed its losses over the years to declining advertising revenue across all platforms and deteriorating TV licence-fee collection.

Tshabalala added that the business model of the SABC needed to be reworked, and for that to happen, skills audit was required.

The Broadcast, Electronic, Media and Allied Workers Union spokesperson Hannes du Buisson also supported the move for a skills audit, and welcomed the broadcaster’s decision to halt retrenchments.

He said a thorough skills audit process needed to be conducted into the competency of SABC employees to ensure the sustainability of the public broadcaster.

“We do not believe that the SABC is overstaffed and we are confident that the skills audit and the structure review process will bring clarity in respect of that.

“We are going to work closely with the SABC with regards to the skills audit process. We hope that we will be able to work with the SABC,” said Du Buisson.

Last year, Krish Naidoo, Khanyisile Kweyama, John Mattison and Mathatha Tsedu, who made up the interim board appointed to resolve challenges at the public broadcaster, resigned.

Parliament’s portfolio committee on communications had set until the last day of January to fill in the 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.

Political Bureau