SABC suspends retrenchment process for a week

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  • The SABC has suspended its retrenchment process to engage stakeholders.
  • The board has said the suspension will be for seven days to "engage and explore further options" for financial sustainability.
  • The public broadcaster this week said it is planning to retrench around 400 workers.

The SABC board has suspended its retrenchment process for one week, a spokesperson announced on Thursday.

"The board of the SABC would like to announce that it will suspend the [Section 189] process for a period of seven days. This will allow all stakeholders to further engage and explore further options in an effort to ensure the financial sustainability of the SABC," a statement released by acting SABC spokesperson Mmoni Seapolelo said on Thursday.

"The SABC is committed to meaningfully engaging with all its stakeholders as it continues to make the corporation financially sustainable in order to fulfil its public mandate," Seapolelo said.

The SABC was planning to retrench around 400 workers, it announced on Wednesday.

The public broadcaster was also considering a three-year salary freeze; reducing employee annual leave from 35 to 28 days; stopping the cashing in of leave; and reducing sick leave from 30 days a year to the 36 days in three years stipulated by law.

Hannes du Buisson, spokesperson for union Bemawu, said the suspension of retrenchment processes for seven days "means nothing".

"Suspending the S189 [Section 189] process for seven days, but not withdrawing the termination letters means nothing. In fact, it is more prejudicial to employees, as the clock keeps on ticking. The SABC has issued termination letters after a defective consultation process.

"Suspending the process for seven days does not cure the defective process and its misplaced rationale."

He called for the withdrawal of all termination letters and said the "SABC must return to the table to properly and meaningfully consult".

"The SABC must first fix what they have identified as wrong before deciding to embark on a S189 process."

He said the SABC has cited not having an adequate online value proposition, poor sales effectiveness (due to not having an adequate online value proposition), ineffective commercial product packaging, old, uncompetitive pricing models, inadequate technology infrastructure, a lack of requisite skills and inefficient business processes.

ALSO READ | 'They are killing us' - SABC staff uncertain about the future

However, he claimed that the SABC, in its proposed structure, "increased positions on scale code 120, that have not been there before, in divisions like Commercial Enterprise".

"In other divisions, the SABC opted to convert permanent staff to freelancers, and/or outsourcing."

He described the move as "an artificial and misleading exercise".

"By converting permanent employees to freelancers and outsourcing functions, does not reduce the headcount, and cost. It simply moves it from the permanent staff salary account to a different expense account. It furthermore deprives employees of benefits they have worked for their entire lives."

Du Buisson denounced the SABC's "exploiting [of] freelance workers for many years".

"By replacing its permanent staff with freelancers is doing so even more. Freelancers does not have benefits like leave, sick leave, UIF, medical aid and pension. It means being sick or going on leave is on a no-pay basis."

On Tuesday, News24 reported that some SABC employees refused to go on air after receiving notice of plans to retrench staff.

Support followed from unions and the public after videos of employees pleading with management to save jobs were circulated on social media.

News24 reported that at commercial radio station 5FM only three of its 14 permanent staff members didn't receive retrenchment notices, while at popular Afrikaans station RSG 12 of the 14 permanent staff members were impacted by the restructuring process.

Fin24 reported on Tuesday that 96% of staff at SABC Africa, a service dedicated to continental news, had been served with redundancy letters. Only four positions were not affected.

Communications and Digital Technologies Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams met with the board of the SABC to "implore" them to preserve jobs after employees refused to accept the planned retrenchments, Fin24 reported.

The South African National Editors' Forum, meanwhile, said it would seek a meeting with SABC management, and urged the broadcaster to ring fence key posts.

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