The public broadcaster on Monday issued notice to staff of its intention to proceed with controversial restructuring in terms of Section 189 of the Labour Relations Act. It also announced that it would approach the Labour Court to deal with irregular appointments and promotions declared invalid in a 2014 Public Protector report and to recover money from those so appointed.
A statement released on Monday by Neo Momodu, SABC General Executive Corporate Affairs and Marketing, said all employees at all levels would be affected by the proposed restructuring.
This would include Group Services, Provincial Operations, Commercial Enterprises, Media Technology and Infrastructure, News, Radio, Sport and Television.
“At this stage, and should retrenchments be necessary, it is envisaged that 981 (nine hundred and eighty one) employees may possibly be retrenched as a result of the restructuring, across all the aforesaid business units and operations of the SABC. Out of the 2,400 freelancers, 1,200 will be affected,” said Momodu.
The restructuring would result, she said, in a cost saving of approximately R440-million per annum, even at this preliminary stage. The amount excluded the projected cost savings from the planned reduction of freelancers.
The “process” had been halted following a joint “consensus seeking meeting” held on 12 October 2018 with organised labour where it had been agreed that the Section 189 notice would be stalled until further details as requested by organised labour had been made available.
The meeting had also resulted in an agreement to appoint a Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) facilitator who would oversee the consultation process.
Meanwhile, the SABC also announced on Monday that it was approaching the Labour Court with an application to have irregular appointments and promotions – as identified in a 2014 Public Protector’s report, “When Governance and Ethics Fail” – declared invalid.
“The Public Protector’s report had identified irregular appointments, promotions and salary increases of certain employees that are no longer with the SABC,” said Momudo.
As a result of the PP’s report, the SABC had engaged in a verification process to determine whether, between 1 April 2015 and 31 March 2017, there had been other possible irregular appointments, promotions and salary increases.
“The verification process confirmed that indeed there were current employees who were irregularly appointed, promoted or had their salaries irregularly increased.”
SABC Group CEO, Madoda Mxakwe, said that “acting in the public interest, the SABC has a legal obligation, in terms of the Constitution, to correct all these irregular appointments, promotions and salary increases”.
The SABC would also approach the Labour Court, in terms of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act, in an attempt to recover monies that had been irregularly paid as salary increases during the period under review.
In a note to SABC staff, Mxakwe said that the “current dire financial position of the SABC is well known and a matter of public record”.
He added that the reality was that unless “drastic measures” are taken to restore the financial viability of the SABC, it would not survive.
“From the outset, we must reiterate that no final decision has yet been taken in this regard nor will any final decision be taken in the absence of full and proper consultation with employees and/or representatives.”
Over and above this, Mxakwe told staff that it had been discovered that “under the auspices of the erstwhile management of the SABC” there had been “many instances” of unlawful and irregular promotions and increases to employees, resulting in an inflated remuneration cost and the payment of salaries to employees that are not commensurate to the actual positions occupied by employees.”
He invited all employees and labour unions to provide representations and submissions during the facilitated consultations with management.
“The preliminary view of the SABC is that there simply does not appear to be any alternatives available. All other reasonable means of cost cutting has been exhausted.”
The SABC had managed to secure supplier and budget cost saving of close to R60-million but this was insufficient to avoid restructuring.
The consultation process with employees should be finalised by 31 January with termination of employment for those retrenched to take place from 1 February 2019. DM