FILE PICTURE
News organisation eNCA could be flouting the country’s labour laws following revelations that its freelance anchors are working without written contracts - which is against the law.

This comes as the channel is embroiled in a legal tussle with its former entertainment reporter, Nontobeko Sibisi, who told The Star she's confident of being reinstated permanently when her Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) case is concluded.

Meanwhile, a two-month probe by The Star, speaking to two freelance anchors with over two years of service each, has unearthed a “toxic” environment of uneasiness, where they don’t know whether they’ll still be utilised due to a lack of contracts.

One of the anchors, who asked to remain anonymous, told of not knowing whether you’ll be put on the roster, or whether you’ll be paid the same rates as the previous month.

“If you complain you are removed from the roster. And there is no contract that you can go back to and say: ‘But I have a contract to work this number of shifts a month’."

The source’s views were echoed by another anchor, who said "talks to provide contracts for all freelancers are under way, but that has been the status quo for some time. I’m not sure what is causing the delay.”

Another freelancer at the 24-hour news channel confirmed what the two anchors told The Star, saying the head of anchors, Sally Burdett, was promising contracts.

John Botha, a labour law expert and head of people function at the listed company Adcorp Group, said the Basic Conditions of Employment Act stated that all employers should provide written contracts to employees working more than 24 hours in a month.

“Anyone working more than 24 hours in a month is a casual worker and should be given a written contract. It doesn’t matter if you employ a gardener; as soon as that gardener works 24 hours in a month, he or she should receive a written contract,” he said, referring to chapter 4 of the act.

Two of the anchors have worked this amount of time for several months.

Mark Rosin, group chief operating officer of eNCA’s controlling company eMedia Investments, neither confirmed nor denied that freelance anchors work without contracts, saying they would not comment on the matter in public.

“That said, certain freelancers who provide ad hoc services are paid on the provision of proper invoices, and any freelancer (or any employee, for that matter) who feels he or she has not been properly accommodated in that regard is free to approach our human resources department and the matter will be attended to,” Rosin said.

The channel’s freelancers usually anchor the 9pm to midnight shifts, and the weekend shifts.

This comes as the channel’s dismissed reporter Sibisi called her dismissal “a grave injustice”, which her lawyers believed had a very strong chance of overturning.

“They (lawyers) are even representing me on a contingency agreement almost similar to pro bono, they feel so strongly,” she contended, adding her CCMA case was now at the arbitration stage.

Sibisi was dismissed for, among other things, false declarations she allegedly made to the channel with respect to her interactions with SA Tourism during her trip to cover the Cape Town International Jazz Festival in March.

In her legal paper, seen by The Star, Sibisi’s lawyers are contesting her dismissal on substantive fairness; procedural fairness; mitigating fairness; and new evidence.

Rosin said they would not comment on Sibisi’s employment as “it and the circumstances of her dismissal will be dealt with by the relevant tribunal or court”.