/ 21 January 2019

SABC retrenchment process still suspended, for now

The public broadcaster’s annual wage bill is currently R3.1-billion.
The public broadcaster’s annual wage bill is currently R3.1-billion. (Delwyn Verasamy/M&G)

The SABC process to retrench 981 permanent employees and 1 200 freelancers is still temporarily suspended.

The public broadcaster, which is technically insolvent, announced in October 2018 that it had served a notice of retrenchment to its employees according to section 189 of the Labour Relations Act.

READ MORE: SABC has no choice but to retrench — executives

This section stipulates the guidelines for starting a process of retrenchments and states that an employer must be able to justify the retrenchments based on its operational requirements. The employer must also seek out appropriate measures to avoid dismissals.

READ MORE: SABC unions will not go down without a fight

SABC spokesperson Neo Momodu told the Mail & Guardian that media reports on Monday that suggest the public broadcaster has totally halted looming job cuts are “completely misleading” because the process has only been put on ice — for now.

“The SABC board is not quorate and is not able to make decisions. At the end of last year, when the board was still quorate, it took the decision to put the section 189 process in abeyance until further notice and that is still the case today,” Momodu said.

Four members of the board — Krish Naidoo, Khanyisile Kweyama, John Mattison and Mathatha Tsedu — resigned in December, leaving the board no longer quorate and unable to make any decisions because it does not have enough members. They were members of the interim board that was appointed last year to resolve challenges at the public broadcaster.

READ MORE: Four SABC board members resign

“There are no consultation processes with organised labour at the moment because we’ve put the process in abeyance until further notice.

“There is also no time frame at this stage. As soon as something happens, we’ll inform the relevant stakeholders and communicate what the way forward is going to be,” Momodu said.

Spokesperson for Broadcasting, Electronic, Media and Allied Workers Union, Hannes du Buisson said there have been no changes in the retrenchment process since last year when it was suspended.

“The section 189 process was put on hold last year and nothing has happened since then,” du Buisson told the M&G.

SABC chief executive Madoda Mxakwe said last year that although the broadcaster is starting to see changes in the plans it is implementing to turn the SABC around, he predicted a R805-million loss for the year which he says is an indication that “what we’re doing is not enough”.

Mxakwe further explained that the public broadcaster’s annual wage bill is currently R3.1-billion. Of this total expense, R12.5-million goes to directors, R25-million goes to members of the executive committee, R500-million to freelancers and R1-billion to different layers of management.