Planned SABC retrenchments scrapped

The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) announced on Thursday that it would not be renewing notice to invoke Section 189 of the Labour Relations Act (LRA).

Section 189 of the LRA permits employers to dismiss employees for operational requirements. These are defined as requirements based on economic, technological, structural or similar needs of the employer.

Neo Momodu, the spokesperson for the public broadcaster, said in a statement that this decision follows “constructive and extensive engagements with various stakeholders, including the parliamentary portfolio committee on communications, organised labour and our own employees.”

Towards the end of 2018, in a major cost-cutting effort, the public broadcaster announced it would be retrenching 981 permanent staffers and 1 200 freelancers. President of the Broadcasting, Electronic, Media & Allied Workers Union (BEMAWU) Hannes du Buisson said, “The SABC’s decision not to renew the notice means the retrenchment process is incomplete.”

Du Buisson maintains that “invoking Section 189 should really have been a last resort.”

Thursday’s decision not to renew notice to invoke Section 189 means that for now, those earmarked for retrenchment will continue to be employed by the SABC.

“What will happen now is a skills audit, which is what we have been calling for all along,” said Du Buisson. He added that the process would take 14 months.

“There needs to be a look at the structure of the SABC, a skills audit to see who is qualified for which positions and if necessary a retraining and re-skilling process. If after that process they find there is still a surplus of employees, some retrenchments will be inevitable,” Du Buisson said.

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