/ 8 July 2009

Workers vent frustration at SABC

More than 300 South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) employees sacrificed their lunch hour on Wednesday to make a statement, with songs and a march, demanding a 12,2% salary increase.

Members of the Broadcast, Electronic, Media and Allied Workers’ Union (Bemawu), the Media Workers’ Association of South Africa (Mwasa) and Congress of South African Trade Unions-affiliate the Communication Workers’ Union (CWU) were vocal in support of their demands.

Hugo Auret, an employee who has been working for the public broadcaster for 18 years, carried an empty box that he says resembles SABC’s empty promises. “There has been no strike in this corporation for 17 years, and today we are looking at possibilities of a strike — that should tell you there is something seriously wrong,” he said.

Many of the employees say that they are being taken for a ride by SABC management, and that management brought them to this point. “I am not at all happy with the way things are … we are not here because of the recession, but because of fund mismanagement,” said Mpepa Khumalo, who works in the information and administration division.

The unions asked for the presence of Communications Manager Siphiwe Nyanda at Wednesday afternoon’s meeting. “We met with management this morning and we don’t seem to be getting through to them, so we have asked to engage directly with comrade Nyanda on this issue, or else we will, come next week, go on a march,” said Themba Gasa, a Mwasa representative.

Gasa told the Mail & Guardian Online that the unions want to see a change in management, regardless of whether they get the 12,2% deal or not. “What use is it for government to give us billions of rands if that money is going to land in the same hands? We don’t want to finger the people who need to go — they know themselves, they should go,” he said.

An employee working for the TV licence division, who declined to be identified, said the public could have helped by also paying TV licences. “That is where the 0,2% would have come from, and as for management, they should get the 12% from the same place they are going to get the 10%. They ate our money, and if they explain to Parliament where the money went, they won’t explain be able to explain to us.”

“How can the parent eat while the children are left starving with crumbs?” asked Sipho Ndlovu, who said that one of the biggest problems at the SABC is that the management throw parties every week “If we didn’t have money, then they should have cut down on the entertainment, but we see that there are people who are still getting paid a lot [referring to management],” he said.

Further lunch-hour picketing is expected on Friday if the negotiating parties don’t reach an agreement by later on Wednesday.

“We will fight till the end. If we don’t get what we want, we will make the SABC ungovernable,” Mwasa’s Gasa said.