/ 18 August 2014

Striking Generations cast members sacked

The cast members of Generations
The cast members of Generations

MMSV Productions, producers of South Africa’s most popular soap opera, Generations, has terminated the contracts of 16 of the show’s cast members.

MMSV Productions released a statement on Monday afternoon to say that the contracts of the striking actors had been terminated. “MMSV Productions, following consultation with the South African Broadcasting Corporation [SABC], have today [Monday] terminated the contracts of the striking actors on the SABC1 soap drama, Generations. The termination follows calls by both parties for the actors to return for recordings, following the start of their illegal strike.”

In the statement, the SABC and MMSV Productions said measures have been put in place to ensure the future of the show and that this would be made public soon.

The cast of Generations confirmed that they have received letters of dismissal with immediate effect. 

In a statement released on behalf of them, the actors state they made a decision to examine their legal options. “We are saddened by this development, but remain steadfast in our goal to ensure fair working conditions for ourselves as creative professionals.”

Earlier on Monday, the cast members of Generations refused to go back on set, despite a warning from producers of the show.

Bulelani Mzamo, lawyer for the actors, confirmed to the Mail & Guardian that the actors were still on strike. 

“The actors didn’t return and they have not received any letters of termination,” Mzamo said earlier. “Instead of negotiating with the cast or giving them a response, they have ordered them back to work with no word about their grievances.”

Not return to set
The actors of Generations were told on Friday that their contracts would be terminated should they not return to set on Monday morning.

SABC 1’s primetime soap opera attracts more than seven-million viewers a night, making it one of the most watched television shows in the country. Despite this popularity, the show’s main actors claim they are not being treated or remunerated fairly. 

The SABC, MMSV Productions and the cast of the 21-year-old show have been at loggerheads since October 2013.

Generations executive producer Mfundi Vundla confirmed none of the actors returned to work and that he would release a statement on Monday.

The actors are demanding bigger salaries and extended three-year contracts. They also want royalties from episodes that have been rebroadcast, as well as syndication fees resulting from the sale of Generations outside of South Africa. The actors have threatened to go to court if their contracts are terminated on Monday.

According to Sunday World, the SABC rejected the actors’ pay increases which it deems “astronomical”, increasing the wages of long-serving actors form R16 000 to R30 000 per week.

“There has been a great deal of talk from the SABC that we want to be paid extravagant salaries – this is simply not true,” the actors said in a statement released on Monday morning.

“Our actor colleagues on the same platform, SABC, are paid at much better rates – so it is possible. For some bizarre reason, however, the powers-that-be choose to keep Generations cast locked into a lower pay grade. This is unjust, and we want it reviewed. We don’t think this is an unreasonable request, considering the audience figures and revenues that the show generates.”

This is not the first time the cast members have walked off set.

‘Failure to address the terms’
The 16 actors went back on strike on Monday August 11 following what they call production company MMSV Productions and SABC’s “failure to address the terms that all the parties agreed to in November 2013, which resulted in the cast returning to work”, they said in a statement.

“We are essentially in exactly the same position we were in last October when we first went on strike. Nothing has been resolved. We came back to work after the first strike in good faith, on the understanding that all the issues that we’d brought up would be addressed by the SABC by this past March – a date that they set.

“Since then, they have missed their own deadline, and pushed the date out, with no discernible resolution to our grievances in sight. Instead, we’ve been ordered back to work and threatened with dismissal, with no explanation of why our issues have not been resolved.”

Timeline of dispute

  • In October 2013, the actors embarked on legal action and a month-long strike after Vundla refused to agree to their demands of three-year contracts. The cast refused to sign their contracts, which included a clause giving Vundla the right to write out non-performing actors. The actors were told that their issues would be resolved by March this year.
  • The cast members returned to work after the SABC’s acting chief operating officer, Hlaudi Motsoeneng, mediated.
  • An agreement was reached that stipulated cast members would receive a three-year contract, MMSV Productions and the SABC would review the proposed pay rates for the performers and MMSV Productions and the SABC agreed to payment of the affected cast’s October remuneration. The two parties agreed to negotiate other terms with the involvement of the SABC and to attempt to conclude a new agreement on or before the end of March 2014. 
  • In December 2013, City Press reported that weeks after returning to work the actors once again downed tools and accused Vundla of being a “baas boy”. 
  • The actors left after their attempt to meet with the executives to iron out their differences failed.
  • In March, the SABC and MMSV Productions requested an extension to July 31 2014 to resolve the issues and respond to cast. The cast agreed.
  • In June 2014, current and past actors took the SABC to court to try to claim royalties they sais were due to them for work on the show over the past 21 years.
  • The actors say that on July 31 the deadline came and passed with no indication from the SABC and MMSV Productions as to any proposed resolutions.
  • The actors on strike are: Anga Makubalo (MJ Dlomo), Atandwa Kani (Samora Lembede), Katlego Danke (Dineo Dlomo), Mandla Gaduka (Selwyn “Choppa” Maithufi), Menzi Ngubane (Sbusiso Dlomo), Nambitha Mpumlwana (Mawande), Patrick Shai (Patrick Tlaole), Slindile Nodangala (Ruby Dikobe), Sophie Ndaba (Queen Ndaba), Seputla Sebogodi (Kenneth Mashaba), Thami Mngqolo (Senzo), Thato Molamu (Nicholas Nomvete), Winnie Ntshaba (Khetiwe Buthelezi), Zenande Mfenyana (Noluntu Memela), Zikhona Sodlaka (Priska Nomvete) and Zolisa Xaluva (Jason Malinga).

Union’s disappointment
The Creative Workers Union of South Africa (CWUSA) expressed its disappointment at what it calls the arrogance displayed by the Generations production company, MMSV Productions, and the exploitation experienced by the actors. 

“Promises were made following our engagement with SABC on a number of meetings called by the then acting COO Mr Hlaudi Motsoeneng. It is therefore surprising that the man who has been appearing in his own screens claiming to be vigorously and decisively resolving issues faced by actors, has failed to do so but to secure himself a decent job whilst actors suffer in the hands of the arrogant Mfundi Vundla who could have been easily brought into his knees to consider equitable employment for actors who are doing so much good for his production. He has become law unto himself and this cannot be accommodated any longer.” 

CWUSA’s acting general secretary Eugene Mthethwa says: “We commend the bravery finally exuded by the actors who have taken their stance to fight for their rights against the indispensable freedom-day slave drivers.”