/ 14 July 2009

Unions issue SABC with ultimatum

The South African Broadcasting Corporation’s management body has two days to meet the 12,2% salary increase demand by unions or there will be dead air on the corporation’s television and radio channels.

More than 500 SABC workers gathered and marched from the nearby Sentech tower to the SABC building in Auckland Park to hand over a memorandum to the group chief executive officer on Tuesday morning.

‘We are here to tell SABC ‘damagement’ [read management] that we will not go back to work until our demands are met. We are tired of seeing corruption at the SABC”, said Mathapelo Mphuti, the second deputy president of the Communication Workers’ Union (CWU). In addition, the Broadcast, Electronic Media and Allied Workers’ Union (Bemawu), the Media Workers’ Association of South Africa (Mwasa), and the CWU were joined by the South African Screen Federation (Sasfed), whose members have also been affected by the public broadcaster’s alleged misuse of funds.

‘We are so tired. We keep working but we are not being paid for the work that we do,” said Charl Blignaut, a television producer and member of the Independent Producers’ Organisation. Blignaut told the Mail & Guardian Online on Wednesday that most independent producers have not been able to pay their staff because they are owed money by the SABC.

‘We are still owed money, lots of money, and they keep telling us that they are waiting for a bailout but we are not sure what that means”, he said.

Other people working for the film industry say that the SABC’s financial shortcomings have affected the film industry severely.

‘I know many of my colleagues who have either had to shut their production companies completely, cut costs or even retrench staff, all because of the three and half years worth of debt from the SABC”, Marc Schwinges told the M&G Online on Tuesday. ‘It is ridiculous. There needs to be dead air because that seems to be the only thing that will drive the point home”, he said.

After signing the memorandum, the broadcaster’s acting group chief executive Gab Mampone addressed the crowd, telling them that management takes their demands seriously.

‘We will respond to the memorandum and we have given a new written offer and we await a written response from the unions”, he said.

Union leaders said that they would not be sending any written response to the SABC management.

‘The written responses are on the board that you have in your hands comrades. There will be no other written response, we stand on 12,2%,” said Mwasa general secretary Gallant Roberts.

SABC’s spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago told the press that not even dead air would change the fact that the SABC cannot afford to meet the workers’ 12,2% demand.

‘We have indicated that we cannot afford 12,2% but we have engaged the unions as to what we can afford. We cannot afford a strike either but we are not the ones coming with the strike”, Kganyago said.

‘We are properly engaging the unions and have come a long way in doing so. We have moved from our initial offer of 7% to a 10%, meanwhile they have not moved from their 12,2% I think we are doing well in engaging them”, he said. The new interim board, the unions and management were expected to meet later on Tuesday afternoon.