SABC cuts 303 employees despite Ndabeni-Abrahams’ intervention

The embattled SABC will continue with the retrenchment of 303 workers, despite interventions from Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies Stella Ndabeni- Abrahams. This comes after communication workers’ labour unions were recently dealt a huge blow when the labour court dismissed their leave to appeal application last month.

“It must be noted that following an extensive consultation process with various stakeholders, this process has been concluded and is currently being implemented,” said SABC acting spokesperson Mmoni Seapolelo. 

“At this stage, affected employees are applying for available vacancies as identified in the new organisational structure, and interviews have started and offers for successful candidates are being finalised. In addition, several early retirements have been accepted.” 

Last week Ndabeni-Abrahams wrote to the SABC board and recommended that board members find alternative ways to avoid retrenchment and save jobs. Her suggestions included the upskilling, reskilling and redeployment of workers. She said the SABC would have to pay for this. Ndabeni also requested a full plan of how the SABC would undertake this, and that it be submitted to parliament.

This was despite a labour court ruling favouring the SABC board in December 2020. The ruling declared that the public broadcaster’s retrenchment process was lawful and above board.

According to Seapolelo, the SABC is also considering freezing salary increases for up to three years after consultation with organised labour. Annual leave could also be reduced from 35 to 28 days.

“This will save us R13.7-million per annum. It must also be noted that the corporation is considering discontinuing the leave encashment practice, which allowed staff members to convert leave into cash. 

“The discontinuation of this practice will save the company R21.8-million per annum. Lastly, the reduction of sick leave to 36 days over three years with no accumulation. Currently, the total number of sick leave days per employee is 30 per year and accumulated to a maximum of 180 days without expiry. The ‘productivity saving’ from this will be R21.8-million per annum,” she said.

Although the SABC is open to considering some of the minister’s alternatives, the broadcaster said it would not reopen talks on retrenchment, because this has been concluded and been declared fair and lawful by the courts.

“We take our responsibility to minimise the impact of the section 189 process and support the affected employees very seriously, and the SABC is doing everything possible in this regard,” Seapolelo said.

Seapolelo said management is mostly concerned about the viability of the SABC in the future. “We do also have a duty to protect the interest of all our other employees, our public mandate, and above all, to secure the future sustainability of the corporation.”

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Chris Gilili
Chris Gilili is a climate and environmental journalist at the Mail & Guardian’s environmental unit, covering socioeconomic issues and general news. Previously, he was a fellow at amaBhungane, the centre for investigative journalism.

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