South Africa

News24.com | SABC standoff with unions intensifies as court reaffirms ruling on consultations

The SABC describes the current financial crisis as 'the most critical for the future and sustainability of this 84-year-old institution'.

The SABC describes the current financial crisis as 'the most critical for the future and sustainability of this 84-year-old institution'.

The Labour Court's dismissal of the Broadcast, Electronic, Media and Allied Workers Union application for leave to appeal on Friday is set to worsen the rift between the public service broadcaster’s management and its employees.

The court decision wraps up a week at the SABC which was punctuated with threats of a "blackout" at the SABC's broadcast platforms, fiery words between management and unions and a march to the union buildings to ask President Cyril Ramaphosa and Cabinet to intervene in the impasse.

In a statement released after Friday's ruling, the SABC said Labour Court decision validated the fairness of the broadcaster's turnaround consultations in terms of section 189 of the Labour Relations Act. By the end of the process aimed at locating and removing redundancies, the broadcaster concluded that it could cut about ten percent of its workforce.

"Labour Court has therefore once again validated the SABC's section 189 process as being procedurally fair and that all participating stakeholders were afforded ample opportunity to engage meaningfully," said the SABC statement.

The Labour Court ruling comes just two days after a march by BEMAWU and the Communication Workers Union to the Union Building on Wednesday. The unions have accused SABC management of sidelining organised labour in the process.

The memorandum called for the entire turnaround strategy to be scrapped, saying organised labour has not seen any of the R3.2 billion bailout funds from National Treasury for infrastructure, refurbishment, and maintenance.

"The government cannot pretend to be unaware of the arrogance displayed by the board before parliament and in public. We therefore call for the dissolvement of the SABC Board with immediate effect and replace it with the administrator," the memorandum said.

The CWU took issue with another SABC statement released on Thursday, where the public service broadcaster said it had contingency plans to avoid a "blackout" and that any employees who downed tools did so under a "no work no pay" arrangement.

"We further want to reiterate that we are using legal and peaceful means to persuade those who are participating in the strike, to participate it well documented and legally acceptable," the CWU said in a statement of its own.

The CWU statement urged Ramaphosa to respond "swiftly" to the memorandum of demands that it and BEMAWU handed over on Wednesday at the Union Buildings.

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