JOHANNESBURG– Striking South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) employees at the Auckland Park head offices on Thursday continued their strike over salary increases after management issued an internal memo saying their actions were illegal.
The letter, labelled as an urgent notice, to employees on Thursday, stated that the strike led by the Broadcasting, Electronic, Media and Allied Workers Union (Bemawu) was illegal because the union did not ”follow proper procedures.”
”The SABC management is concerned that you have all chosen to participate in an unprotected strike action led by Bemawu. Bemawu was not party to conciliation proceedings which were scheduled for 18 October 2017 and neither did Bemawu lodge an application to be joined as a party in those proceeding,” read the letter issued by the public broadcaster’s communication division.
Rival union, Communication Workers Union (CWU) announced on Thursday that it had withdrawn from the SABC strike due to legal technicalities ”that need to be ironed”.
In the letter to staff, CWU ”unconditionally” withdrew on 31 October.
Bemawu hit back at SABC, denying claims that the strike was illegal. The union posted a letter from the Commission for Conciliation Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) on its website informing members that the labour action was legal.
”Bemawu vehemently denies this. We are in possession of a letter from the CCMA confirming our strike is protected and we may proceed with a strike. The strike is not only about a salary increase … it also in support of a public broadcaster free of political interference,” the union said.
The union demanded a 10 percent salary hike, which management at the cash-strapped public broadcaster said was not affordable. The increment was due in April.
Unions issued the SABC with a 48-hour strike notice on Monday after the broadcaster proposed to re-open the negotiations on Wednesday following several back-and-forth meetings.
Earlier, Employees at the SA Broadcasting Cooperation (SABC) Auckland Park head office downed tools and took to the streets on Thursday, demanding a salary hike that was due in April.
Members of the Broadcasting, Electronic, Media & Allied Workers Union (Bemawu) and Communications Workers Union (CWU) are demanding a 10 percent wage hike, which management at the cash-strapped public broadcaster said was not affordable. The increment was due in April.
An SABC journalist said the R5 billion irregular expenditure incurred by the SABC was a clear indication that the institution has money.
”We are aware that the economy is not doing very well, but with how money has been misspent , this gives us an indication that there is money. We are not totally being unreasonable, we expect unions to settle on a figure that would be in line with inflation,” said business reporter Liabo Setho.
”Inflation is up, cost of living has shot up … we got to have something to motivate us to come to work. We just need to get something in line with the inflation, and be able to feed our families.”
The newly appointed board at the public broadcaster and management are faced with securing much needed funding and cleaning up poor governance issues that plagued the SABC.
Parliament’s standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) in March lashed at the then management, led by former CEO James Aguma for the R5 billion irregular expenditure and fruitless and wasteful expenditure totalling R92 million.