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DEVELOPING | SABC retrenchments: Sanef wants meeting with public broadcaster amid staff protests

The SABC building in Auckland Park, Johannesburg.
The SABC building in Auckland Park, Johannesburg.
PHOTO: Veli Nhlapo/Gallo Images

Rolling coverage: The country's state broadcaster appears to be in disarray after news of staff being served with retrenchment notices. This follows reports of a poor financial situation at the SABC. Staff have reportedly refused to go on air in protest of possible job cuts. 

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17 Nov 2020

Ringfence 'core news' posts at SABC, urges editors' forum as media industry bleeds jobs

The SA National Editors Forum will seek a meeting with SABC management, to get a "deeper understanding" of its restructuring plans impacting some 400 workers.

It has appealed to the broadcaster to ringfence "core news" and core current affairs posts. Sanef on Tuesday issued the statement, this following a heated meeting between SABC management and staff over planned retrenchments, with TV anchors reportedly refusing to go on air. 

Fin24 earlier reported that SABC group executive for news and current affairs Pathiswa Magopeni would withdraw retrenchment letters issued.

Fin24 has reached out to the SABC for comment on the matter. It said it would issue a statement in due course.

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17 Nov 2020

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Bold new plans but same old problems for SABC as report shows how far it has to go

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17 Nov 2020

COSATU supports SABC employees in their fight against retrenchments 

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The Congress of South African Trade Unions fully support the workers at SABC in their fight against the planned retrenchments.

The announcement by the SABC that it plans to retrench about 400 workers is ill-advised and regrettable. This comes on the back of depressing statistics that show that the unemployment rate, in the country, rose by 7,5 percentage points to 30,8%, the highest figure on record.

What is more scandalous is that the government is leading the charge when it comes to destroying jobs, at a time when it is supposed to be exemplary in protecting and creating new jobs. These retrenchments are not just going to destroy workers lives and those of their families, but they are going to weaken what is a very vital institution of our democracy. 

The Federation believes in a stable and self-sustaining public broadcaster, but retrenching workers is not the solution. These workers are being scapegoated by the managers and decision-makers, who are responsible for this mess.

This will weaken this important institution at a time when Covid-19 has shown us the importance of having a viable public broadcaster These retrenchments are about weakening the public sector and outsourcing an important developmental mandate to the private sector.

The South African Constitution states that “Public Administration must be development-oriented”. It further states that the “people’s needs must be responded to, and the public must be encouraged to participate in policy-making”. 

The SABC is the only vehicle which can possibly speak for all South Africans in their own languages and reflect their lives, history, and culture. These constitutional injunctions place the public service and the broader public-sector at the centre of the socio-economic development and elevate the need for people-centred development programmes.

We call on the ANC government to intervene and honour its commitment it has made to the people.

In its Manifesto the ANC said, “The ANC is committed to building a democratic developmental state able to lead efforts to overcome unemployment and poverty and reduce inequality. The developmental state would play a strategic guiding role in the economy and decisively intervene in the interests of the people, particularly the workers and the poor”. 

These retrenchments and austerity strategy by government promote the commodification of public services rather than the promotion of constitutional or citizenship rights, and as such citizens are becoming “customers” or “clients” in the practice of the delivery of public services. 

Fixing the problems of the current crisis should not be done at the expense of workers through the intensification of exploitation, retrenchments, and the privatisation of public enterprises.

The real cause of this crisis is the pandemic of corruption and wasteful expenditure that is yet to be properly addressed at the SABC.

Issued by COSATU

17 Nov 2020

SABC retrenchments to be reversed, says exec as staff refuse to go on air

SABC employees were on Tuesday locked in a heated meeting with management over planned retrenchments of up to 400 workers, with reports that television anchors could refuse to go on air.

The stand-off with management comes after employees had been embarking on lunchtime pickets over looming job cuts by the public broadcaster which is facing financial challenges.

The broadcaster's 24-hour news channel showed images of staffers locked in a meeting with management, which was called after more workers received letters of redundancies.

Workers are also calling for management to resign and accuse them of "decimating Africa's largest newsroom" by introducing a new structure without consultation.

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17 Nov 2020

Sanef wants to meet with the SABC

Full statement: The South African National Editors' Forum (SANEF) is concerned about the instability at the SABC after the announcement of impending retrenchments.

As part of its turnaround strategy, the SABC announced this week it would retrench 400 of its almost 3 000 employees. Newsroom staff are also affected. Apart from the lay-offs, the SABC also stated that it would freeze salary increases for the next three years.

Earlier in the year it forecast that it might have to lay off 600 jobs for its own survival. The SABC's salary bill represents more than half its revenue and 45% of its expenditure.

SANEF calls on the SABC leadership to continue to fulfil its public mandate by ensuring that its budget cuts do not curtail a number of critical services including its African language and regional programming. We call for the SABC to ringfence core news and current affairs posts and not compromise its core public mandate of news delivery.

SANEF will be seeking a meeting with the SABC to get a deeper understanding of its restructuring plans and its vision for the future of the public broadcaster. We note that Section 189 notices to the newsroom staff have temporarily been withdrawn.

Since President Cyril Ramaphosa declared the Coronavirus pandemic a national disaster on 23 March 2020, more than 700 jobs have been lost in the media industry. In the first two months of the lockdown we saw the closure of two magazine publishers and 80 small print publications operating across the country.

SANEF notes with deep concern that in many newsrooms around the country, journalists are simply not replaced, resulting in a diminished capacity to cover the length and breadth of the country. With the prevailing tough economic conditions, advertising revenue has declined dramatically, and the bulk of digital advertising revenue leaves the country's shores to Facebook and Google.

It is not just the Covid-19 crisis that has decimated the media sector. In the past three years, scores of journalists lost their jobs due to retrenchments by the then Tiso Blackstar, Media24, Independent Media and the shutdown of Afro Worldview, previously known as ANN7, by MultiChoice. Titles like The Times and HuffPost SA were closed, which diminished the diversity of voices in South Africa.

We call on media owners to think creatively and responsibly about implementing new, sustainable business models, built on the integrity and the trust that our readers, viewers and listeners place in us to tell the country's stories without fear or favour.

17 Nov 2020

Chaos at the SABC...

The SABC is in disarray, with presenters refusing to go on air amid talk of retrenchments at the public broadcaster.

A group of disgruntled staffers had declared Monday a "Black Monday" in protest of the proposed retrenchments. The group called on the public to participate in a silent protest for affected staff. 

The workers called for management to step down. The SABC disclosed that 400 people were being served with Section 189 notices, with about 170 posts to be filled.

The SABC has been limping along, facing a dire financial position for years, and talk of mass retrenchments has been on and off. 

Following a bailout from the Nationa Treasury earlier this year, the SABC announced a “new model” in an effort to revamp itself and rehabilitate its image.
Read the latest on the saga here
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