SABC: We are ready to start job cuts, salary freezes

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The SABC describes the current financial crisis as 'the most critical for the future and sustainability of this 84-year-old institution'.
The SABC describes the current financial crisis as 'the most critical for the future and sustainability of this 84-year-old institution'.

The South African Broadcasting Corporation says it is no longer able to hold off on job cuts and that it has become clear the organisation has no choice but to begin a restructuring process. 

In a statement issued on Wednesday evening, the beleaguered public broadcaster said it was "now ready" to begin implementing Section 189 of the Labour Relations Act after a "lengthy consultation process with many stakeholders". 

It has, however, managed to reduce the estimated number of employees affected from around 600 to 400. 

There are also around 170 vacant positions available for staff to apply for, the broadcaster said. 

Employees will receive a week's severance pay for each year of service. 

"In carefully considering all proposals from organised labour and other stakeholders, it became clear that, sadly, our organisation requires a difficult but necessary restructuring process that will result in the reduction of staff," the broadcaster said in a statement. 

"The SABC is fully cognisant of the fact that this process will affect people's livelihoods and, moreover, have a knock-on effect on their families and communities. However, having exhausted all other options, we are now faced with the difficult task of having to restructure the organisation to ensure its sustainability."

The SABC had held 16 consultative sessions over four months, it said. 

Other cost-cutting alternatives are also on the cards, namely freezing salaries for three years; reducing employee leave days from 35 calendar days to 28 days; stopping the encashment of leave days; and reducing sick leave from 30 days annually to the 36 days in a three-year cycle aligned to the Basic Conditions of Employment Act. 

SABC Group CEO Madoda Mxakwe described the decision as "regrettably a necessary one".  

Communication Workers Union spokesperson Aubrey Tshabalala previously described the suggestion of possible job cuts as "disturbing" and "a mistake". At the time, he told Fin24 that labour would not easily be "cajoled" into accepting redundancies.

The SABC announced a restructuring process in 2018, which was projected to impact the jobs of 1 200 freelancers and 981 permanent employees. It was, however, put on ice. 

The broadcaster's updated announcement is the latest in a series of retrenchments in media and journalism this year.

Earlier this week, the broadcaster announced the launch of a streaming service, in partnership with Telkom. The SABC hopes the online streaming channel will be a fresh source of revenue and boost its cash flow. 

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