Communications ministry 'does not support' SABC retrenchments: Ndabeni-Abrahams

11 November 2020 - 22:38
Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams says the Labour Relations Act requires retrenchments to be the last resort after all other options have been exhausted.
Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams says the Labour Relations Act requires retrenchments to be the last resort after all other options have been exhausted.
Image: GCIS

Communications minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams has told parliament that her ministry did not support the retrenchment of staff at the SABC.

Parliament published Ndabeni-Abrahams' written reply to an EFF question just hours before the SABC announced that it was going ahead with the retrenchment of about 400 of its employees.

“At this stage the ministry does not support the retrenchment of employees at the SABC as the corporation did not follow steps outlined by Government Technical Advisory Centre (GTAC) in the turnaround strategy before embarking on the exercise.

“Further, Labour Relations Act, 66 of 1995, requires retrenchments to be the last resort after all other options have been exhausted,” said Ndabeni-Abrahams.

She was responding to EFF MP Vuyani Pambo, who wanted to know the basis of the SABC management's decision to push ahead with the retrenchments.

Pambo also asked how the retrenchments would improve the situation of mismanagement and abuse of resources at the broadcaster.

Ndabeni-Abrahams said steps that had been recommended by the GTAC which the SABC was required to follow included developing a holistic operating model for the corporation, inclusive of a proposed organisational structure and associated job profiles to serve as a basis for a staff optimisation.

She said the corporation was also required to conduct a skills audit of the existing workforce to assist with decisions on the matching and placement of staff in the proposed organisational structure and to guide their training and development.

Other recommendations were for the SABC to:

  • consult key internal and external stakeholders inclusive of the recognised organised unions; and

  • develop a proposal for populating the proposed organisational structure that considers viable options such as retraining and redeployment, early retirement and voluntary severance packages.

“This must include the proposed process that will need to be followed should there still be permanent staff members that are surplus to operational requirements after exhausting all the above options.

“The GTAC further required the SABC to develop interim measures to reduce the cost of employment focusing on non-permanent (freelance) employees,” said Ndabeni-Abrahams.

She said the SABC management, however, advises that the Section 189 process was part of a bigger organisational effort aimed at restructuring and reorganising the broadcaster to best position it for the future, while addressing the unsustainable nature of its employee compensation bill.

“Both are critical if the turnaround of the SABC is to be achieved. Both are also explicit conditions of the bailout funding received from the National Treasury in 2019, and are contained in the SABC turnaround plan.”

Ndabeni-Abrahams said retrenchment of employees and the mismanagement at the SABC were not related.

She said addressing the mismanagement and abuse of resources of the SABC had been a focus of SABC leadership since the board took office. She said efforts to strengthen internal controls to prevent future mismanagement and abuse of the corporation’s resources were ongoing.

“The goal of the SABC board and management in terms of their efforts in this regard is to develop and embed an organisational culture across the SABC that is characterised by strong ethical values,” said Ndabeni-Abrahams.

The SABC announced on Wednesday that after a lengthy consultation process it was ready to implement Section 189 of the Labour Relations Act.

In carefully considering all proposals from organised labour and other stakeholders, it became clear that, sadly, our organisation requires a difficult but necessary restructuring process that will result in the reduction of staff,” the public broadcaster said in a statement. The SABC is fully cognisant of the fact that this process will affect people's livelihoods and, moreover, have a knock-on effect on their families and communities. However, having exhausted all other options, we are now faced with the difficult task of having to restructure the organisation to ensure its sustainability,” it said quoting its group CEO Madoda Mxakwe.

The SABC said had considered all options to minimise the total number of affected employees.

As such, we have been able to reduce the total number of affected people to about 400, which is significantly less than the originally projected figure of 600. In addition, there are about 170 vacant positions that will be available for employees to apply for which provides the potential of further reducing the number of affected employees to 230,” it said.

The SABC said all affected employees will be offered a severance package of one week for each completed year of service.

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