Despite talks between the SABC and two unions (BEMAWU and CWU) deadlocking yesterday, a meeting is planned for this morning between the two parties.
Let’s hope this morning’s meeting goes better than yesterday’s one. BEMAWU spokesperson, Hannes du Buisson, described the tone of the SABC Board at yesterday’s meeting as “semi hostile”. Du Buisson said the only reason the SABC has given to the unions and its members for the lack of negotiation is, “You know we are bankrupt, you know we don’t have money”, which has angered the employees.
“You’re not going to go to Isidingo and say to them, ‘Well we don’t have money, we’re not going to pay you’ because then you won’t have any programmes to broadcast. That ‘arrogance’ has angered employees, because those people can switch you off and not provide your programmes you go negotiate with them. But you think we won’t take action so you won’t negotiate with us,” Du Buisson added.
Independent mediator Ibrahim Patelia will try and broker a deal between the two parties.
The only official demand from the unions is a 10% wage increase, but Du Buisson said this strike went beyond the money to tackling underlying issues. “In the last five years, the board and executives came to the SABC clearly didn’t have the required skills and came with political agendas. All that resulted in what we know happened at SABC, the destabilisation of the Board and the protest policy that came into existence. All these irregularities, these are some of the reasons that have moved employees to say ‘enough is enough’.”
BEMAWU wants a public broadcaster that is free from political interference, and while this cannot be included as an official demand in this strike, the union hoped this action would move the SABC to give an undertaking that this will not happen.
Negotiating with everyone except the employees
The crux of the matter for SABC employees is that the public broadcaster is negotiating with all their other service providers except for them.
“The SABC is on record that they negotiated with all their other service providers. Freelancers and independent contractors were given a 6% increase. They are negotiating terms with everyone, except with their most important service provider, their employees,” Du Buisson said. “We are aware of the situation the SABC finds itself in, but from the board’s point of view, it will worsen things for them due to the reputational issues that come into play… The workers want to see a willingness from the SABC, management and board to negotiate, not for them to come and say ‘there will be a zero percent increase and sorry that is it’.”
The number of strikers
At this stage it is unclear how many union members are on strike. What is known is that it is a national strike and that BEMAWU represents around 1 500 SABC workers.
Du Buisson said the effects of the strike had already been seen at the public broadcaster with non-familiar talent appearing on morning programming and some programmes not being broadcast.
In a statement the SABC explained that the SABC board proposed that wage negotiations be reopened and a neutral facilitator be appointed to aid the negotiations. Once BEMAWU had met with its members, the union decided that the strike would proceed.
SABC spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago stressed that a no work, no pay principle would apply and urged non-striking workers to come to work and striking workers to not intimidate their colleagues and proceed with their action “in a dignified manner”.
On 13 October 2017 BEMAWU sent a letter of demands to the SABC. Included in that letter was a demand for the appointment of a permanent board, a call for an investigation into and the suspension of the SABC’s protest policy, the unilateral restructuring of procedural appointments, and a 10% increase salary demand. Earlier in the year BEMAWU met with the SABC to negotiate the last point and the public broadcaster offered a 0% increase.
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