South Africa

Union threatens blackout of SABC broadcasts today amid possible retrenchments

The Communication Workers Union (CWU) has threatened a blackout of all broadcast services when its members down tools at the SABC from 11am to 2pm on Friday.

And while Broadcasting, Electronic, Media & Allied Workers Union (Bemawu) president Hannes du Buisson said there was a plan for downing of tools, he said “this might change”.

The SABC on Thursday night cancelled a planned media briefing on Friday where it was expected to address the issue of the retrenchment process at the public broadcaster.

Du Buisson said the planned action was against the retrenchment process, particularly  that employee representatives were not given sufficient time to give feedback to their members and consult on the final input on the structure.

On Wednesday, members of the CWU and Bemawu marched to the Union Buildings to hand over a memorandum to President Cyril Ramaphosa to raise their concerns about the planned retrenchments.

They demanded that the SABC board be dissolved and that the public broadcaster be placed under administration.

Speaking to eNCA on Friday morning, CWU general secretary Aubrey Tshabalala said the go-slow started on Thursday and the union was happy with the progress.

“From 11am till 2pm today, there will be tools down inside ... which will lead to a blackout. There will be no fresh news or fresh content,” Tshabalala said.

He said this would affect SABC radio and TV services.

Tshabalala said after presenting the memorandum on Wednesday, the president responded and said he would be engaging with the ministers of communications and labour.

Tshabalala said the unions met communications, telecommunications and postal services minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams and labour minister Thulas Nxesi on Thursday.

It was resolved that the meeting should continue on Friday.

However, a senior producer at the SABC was not sure whether the planned action would affect operations.

“Look, personally I don't think there is enough buy-in from staff to do that, plus management has contingency plans in place ... so I guess we will all have to wait and see,” a senior producer who asked not to be named said.

The SABC is yet to respond to requests for comment.

This is a developing story.

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