SABC concludes redundancy talks, plans to cut about 10% of workforce

SABC in Cape Town is photographed. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)
SABC in Cape Town is photographed. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)
  • The SABC says the revised process will "withstand any legal scrutiny".
  • The reduced number of employees to be made redundant is said to be almos  half of the originally projected 600 jobs.
  • The job cuts at the SABC are part of the company's turnaround plan, which has been opposed by unions.

The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) says it has concluded its consultation process over the company's restructure plan, with the number of employees to be made redundant now reduced to 303, about 10% of its workforce.

The implementation of the process is part of the broadcaster's turnaround plan which has been plagued by several hurdles, including a legal action by a labour union.

On Thursday, the SABC said in a statement it had held numerous engagements with unions facilitated by an independent labour expert, as per agreement reached between the board, government and unions.

"After considering all options to minimise the total number of affected employees, the SABC has further reduced the number of affected redundant employees to 303."  According to the broadcaster, the number is said to be "just under half of the originally projected 600 redundancies."

The number of jobs to be shed, as part of the company's restructure process was initially said to be around 400. The SABC has a staff compliment of just under 3 000 people.

The redundancies are dependent on the acceptance of the proposed alternatives and the number of employees who will opt for voluntary severance packages and early retirement, the ailing broadcaster said.   

It said it was satisfied that revised labour process, also referred to as, Section 189 of the Labour Relations Act, will "withstand any legal scrutiny."

In November, workers angered by the issue of redundancy notices embarked on lunch-time pickets, calling for the reversal of the letters. The Labour Court in December  dismissed an urgent application by the Broadcast, Electronic, Media and Allied Workers Union (Bemawu) to have the process declared irregular and invalid.

Another labour formation, the Communication Workers Union (CWU), said the latest development is far from being seen as "victory for workers".

General Secretary,  Aubrey Tshabalala told FIN24 that the union still stands by its "no retrenchment position" and described the recently concluded engagements as a" hostile process" only aimed at meeting the deadline.

He lamented that the union was not given time to consult with their members during the engagement process, but that process would soon take place in order to get a mandate on how to treat the latest development.

Tshabalala said the union was further unhappy that the SABC had not given the union a clear indication of which departments would be affected by the 303 job cuts, making it difficult for them to offer a meaningful feedback to members.

An earlier stalemate between the SABC board and the unions has raised a threat of a broadcast blackout, prompting the Minister of Communication and Digital Technologies Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, the department of Labour and and parliament to intervene. The SABC board, following meetings with the minister put the implementation of the  Section 189 on ice until the end of December, to allow further consultation between stakeholders.

The public broadcaster is battling a severe financial crunch, with years of losses which have made it increasingly dependent of government support for survival.

"The SABC acknowledges that the retrenchment process was difficult for all stakeholders and emotionally-charged at times. The extended process also created prolonged uncertainty," it said.

The broadcaster maintains that the turnaround plan is necessary to reposition the public broadcaster and "ensure its stability and financially sustainability".

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