Sapa staff take case to CCMA

Staff members of the South African Press Association (Sapa) refuse to go quietly – they plan to take their dismissal to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA).

A spokesperson for the United Association of South Africa (Uasa) union, Gerhard Ueckermann, said on Friday that they had not been included in the negotiation process, despite a recognition agreement with the wire service. “We heard yesterday that the board has released a press statement,” he said.

This was despite the union sending a letter to Sapa’s management at the start of the week informing them that the union must be part of the discussion of the process in terms of labour legislation. “Our legal department is in the process of drawing up papers,” said Ueckermann.

It was announced on Thursday that Sapa was to close its doors on March 31, after 76 years of supplying news to broadcasters and print media.

Sapa chairperson Minette Ferreira, a director at Media24, said in a statement: “After the disposal of the assets the company will be liquidated and its operations will cease on March 31 2015.” As a special category non-profit organisation, Sapa cannot be sold, she said.

‘Maximising opportunities’
She said staff members, who will all be retrenched, were a concern of the board who are committed to “maximising opportunities for these staffers” in the new spin off company, or “elsewhere in the media”.

It has emerged, however, that many of the staff, while aware that the board were considering setting up a profit-based wire service, were unaware that they would be retrenched and have to reapply for their jobs. Their union Uasa was also not included in the negotiation process or informed of the decision made by the board.

Three companies have expressed an interest in setting up a profit-based operation along similar lines to Sapa. They are: Gallo Images, KKM Review Publishers and Sekunjalo Investment Holdings, owned by Independent media head Iqbal Survé.

Sapa’s future has been uncertain since Times Media Group pulled out in 2013, followed by Caxton and Independent Newspapers. Caxton had returned as a funding member at the time of Sapa’s demise.

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