The Communication Workers Union (CWU) has served the SABC with a notice to embark on a strike in protest against the planned retrenchments.
CWU general secretary Aubrey Tshabalala said on Thursday they had served the public broadcaster with a notice to strike on Friday.
“In our fight against retrenchments at the SABC on Wednesday, November 18, the union has served the employer with a 48 hours’ notice of embarking on a protected industrial action.”
“This morning [Thursday], parties have met to finalise the agreement on picketing rules. This came after a marathon of engagements on section 189 of the Labour Relations Act under the auspices of the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA),” read the union’s statement.
Tshabalala said their talks with the SABC started on June 11, when a team led by the board’s chairperson, Bongumusa Makhathini, the CEO, Madoda Mxakwe, and the chief operations officer, Ian Plaatjes, was presented with the union’s proposed turnaround strategy to strengthen the SABC business model and make it sustainable.
“In our proposal, we discussed a number of things including, but not limited to, opening up new revenue streams, remodelling the funding model, dealing with stringent broadcasting regulations, the re-incorporation of Sentech back to the SABC, the digital migration and government’s role, the Covid-19 lockdown funding from the National Treasury, and to invite all key stakeholders in an inclusive dialogue on the turn-around strategy or a new cooperate plan,” he said.
Tshabalala said initially the SABC team expressed its appreciation on the level of discussions and confirmed that they shared several critical points with the CWU in its approach on the turnaround strategy.
“On June 18, we were then taken aback by an invite to a section 189 meeting that had been scheduled under the CCMA. This point marked the beginning of the SABC management and the board revealing their incompetency through colours of engaging in bad faith, dishonesty, maliciousness and unethical practices.”
“In the process of section 189 [retrenchments], the SABC management changed its cooperate plan more than three times. When they found difficulties in explaining their lies, they changed the goal post by bringing a new cooperate plan in the next meeting,” Tshabalala said.
According to the union, initially the SABC had indicated that in its cooperate plan, it wanted in the 2020/21 financial year a workforce of 3 050 so that it could keep the operations in a sound operational state.
“After we had demonstrated that due to natural attrition, their workforce actually stands just below 3 000, they then abandoned that plan. They then introduced a new plan that meant to re-align the public broadcaster with the modern broadcasting standards.
“It then presented fabricated research that showed their counterparts MultiChoice, having more channels than SABC but employing lesser staff. That was exposed as untrue since MultiChoice staff is two times bigger than the SABC and has lesser channels, yet the rest of the channels come from a number of private companies,” he said.
Earlier this year, the SABC received another government bailout, with the condition that it should cut costs. But it is now facing opposition from ANC and its alliance partners who are against the job cuts.
SABC insiders say the public broadcaster would need an estimated annual injection of R1 billion from government to cover the salary bill if it does not proceed with the staff cuts.