Unions threaten to strike at SABC over increase reversal

A strike is looming at the SABC as the broadcaster seeks to reverse salary increases awarded under the leadership of Hlaudi Motsoeneng. (Madelene Cronje, M&G)

A strike is looming at the SABC as the broadcaster seeks to reverse salary increases awarded under the leadership of Hlaudi Motsoeneng. (Madelene Cronje, M&G)

Decreasing the wage bill was a key condition of the loan guarantee given by the treasury to the broadcaster when it sought to borrow R1-billion from Nedbank in 2009.

But the SABC introduced a ''salary anomalies project" that resulted in about 1 230 employees receiving salary increases. This added about R45-million to the wage bill.

Last month, the broadcaster wrote to some of the employees who had received raises and informed them that it had "delimited" the record of the salary anomalies project and that increases would be withheld until further notice.

Matankana Mothapo of the Communication Workers’ Union of South Africa said they would not allow the reversals, because employees had already made financial commitments based on the assurance given by the broadcaster.

Mothapo said a three-day meeting held about two weeks ago between union leadership, employees and management failed to reach a resolution, but further talks would be held.

Tuwani Gumani of the Media Workers' Association of South Africa, which is not recognised by the SABC but insists that it has members at the broadcaster, said the union would also demand that the salaries be retained. "People have made commitments.
We will resist the reversal of this benefit," said Gumani.

He said the only other option was to strike, "which would be a pity as this would further kill the organisation".

He described the decisions taken by the SABC management as "ad hoc" and "made for populist purposes as they are not sustainable".

A task team comprised of management and unions was appointed to implement the project. In its draft findings, the team said that delaying the correction of the anomalies would cost the broadcaster because staff salaries increase annually.

SABC spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago described the project as a "parity process" that had emerged from the 2012-2013 wage agreement between the SABC and two recognised trade unions.

He said the financial implications of the project had not been finalised and the process was ongoing. He would not confirm the R45-million figure, saying the SABC had budgeted for the exercise using a collective bargaining process.

Asked about reversing the salary increments, he said: "In any transaction, errors do occur and should be addressed accordingly, taking into account the legislative requirements or dictates. This is what the SABC is in the processes of addressing."