More than 600 employees depart from SABC as broadcaster cuts costs

30 March 2021 - 10:30 By TimesLIVE
The SABC previously announced it would retrench 400 employees. This has risen to 621. File photo.
The SABC previously announced it would retrench 400 employees. This has risen to 621. File photo.
Image: Waldo Swiegers

The SABC is retrenching 621 employees in a major shake-up amid the cash-strapped national broadcaster’s turnaround process.

Group CEO Madoda Mxakwe said in a letter the section 189 process was extremely difficult and emotionally charged, but “a necessary component of the SABC’s turnaround plan to ensure the public broadcaster’s long-term financial sustainability and capacity to fulfil its extensive public mandate”.

“The process was necessary to preserve and reposition the SABC as a resilient and viable public broadcaster and public media organisation.”

In a separate statement, acting SABC spokesperson Mmoni Seapolelo said the section 189 process began with the issuing of the notice in June 2020, and “after an intensive nine-month period”, will conclude on March 31.

Of those leaving the organisation, 346 are employees who opted for voluntary severance packages.

“Some were concerned about the impact of lower job scale codes resulting from the organisation-wide job evaluation process, on current salaries and their pension. These colleagues took voluntary severance packages as a first option and chose not to participate in any alternative job-seeking processes,” Seapolelo said.

The other 275 employees are those who occupied positions that have become redundant.

“Some employees in this category went through the recruitment process seeking alternative opportunities but were, unfortunately, not successful. The SABC used its best endeavours and managed to absorb affected employees who qualified for vacant positions during the recruitment process,” said Seapolelo.

Mxakwe said: “The number of exiting employees is higher than originally anticipated, due primarily to: (i) the impact that lower job scales have on employees’ retirement benefits and fund value, and (ii) the lack of relevant competencies and qualifications matching available jobs.

“Undoubtedly, this has been a very challenging period and a difficult process as it affects livelihoods. The exiting colleagues have worked hard for the SABC for many years.

We remain committed to transforming the SABC and taking its content everywhere, across platforms, on all devices and in all our languages. We want to be part of preserving this national treasure which has the public interest at the very heart of its existence.”

Last month, deputy communications minister Pinky Kekana said her department had approached President Cyril Ramaphosa to assist with the funding structure of the SABC.

This was as she explained plans and alternatives under discussion to ensure the public broadcaster was in a better financial standing. They included:

  • the freezing of annual increases for SABC staff for the next three years, which would save R312m;
  • leave reduction, which would save another R13.7m; and
  • the discontinuation of the leave encashment practice, a move which would save R21.8m.