The Broadcast, Electronic Media & Allied Workers Union (BEMAWU) has called off the strike at the SABC after parties reached an agreement late last night.
When annual wage talks for the current financial year kicked off, the public broadcaster was not at all prepared, to increase the salaries of SABC employees. Negotiations were suspended pending a government guarantee.
On the 13th of October 2017, BEMAWU served the SABC with a list of demands, which included the appointment of a permanent Board, the investigation of enforcers of the Protest Policy, which resulted in the dismissal of the SABC 8, unprocedural appointments at the SABC and a 10% salary increase.
Several meetings were held between BEMAWU, management and a delegation of the new Board.
At one of these meetings BEMAWU was informed a salary increase for SABC staff was not included in the application for a government guarantee. Shortly thereafter BEMAWU established that the Interim Board was paid an amount of R3.9M for the six months they were in office. On average the five board members each received R130 000 per month, or R8000 per meeting for the 99 times they met.
This angered SABC staff, NOT because Board members should not have been paid, but because the payment to the Board was made at a time when the SABC was virtually bankrupt and no increase was offered to staff. Staff were also shocked by the amount paid.
BEMAWU is concerned about the amount of money being paid to SABC Board members, making it seem as though the company is being used as a cash cow and second income. Whilst busy amending the Broadcasting Act to reduce the number of Board members, we call on the Minister to include an amendment to the Act, which will stipulate SABC Board members may not be paid for their service. It should be a voluntary service to the public broadcaster, and the larger community. We will then attract the right people who will do it because they care for South Africa and the broadcaster.
When the parties reached deadlock, a dispute was filed at the CCMA. The dispute was conciliated over two days by the CCMA. A certificate of non-resolution for a protected strike to proceed was issued.
Only thereafter an offer of 4.5% increase for only SIX months with a deferred payment was made. SABC employees rejected that offer, as it only amounted to 2.25%.
BEMAWU served notice on the SABC and on Thursday, 14 December 2017 BEMAWU embarked on a protected strike countrywide.
The effect of the strike was immediately visible, and several radio stations were affected.
On the first day of the strike the CCMA requested an intervention in terms of Section 150 of the Labour Relations Act. Parties met on Friday, 15 December 2017, and late last night the SABC adjusted its offer to 4.8% for 9 months, which was 1.3% better than the previous offer.
After a ballot the majority of BEMAWU members voted to (reluctantly) accept the offer. The strike was called off and broadcasts will continue without any further interruptions.
Our members are broadcasters, who have a passion for broadcasting, and it was an extremely difficult decision for SABC staff to proceed with a strike. It is extremely sad that the Board forced SABC employees into this strike. Had a reasonable offer been made from the onset, a strike would have not occurred.
Our members are committed, as always to live their passion, and continue bringing the people of South Africa, news- in an untainted, unbiased and truthful manner. We will continue to broadcast information and entertainment in a responsible manner.
We thank all members who supported their demand for a reasonable salary increase with their actions – to proceed with a strike. We thank middle management of the SABC, in particular our members in this unit who supported the strike.
We thank all the media who covered this important event at the public broadcaster and who supported us in our struggle to ensure a public broadcaster that is properly administered and free of bias and political interference.
The offer accepted by employees is a 4.8% ATB (across the board) for 9 months. The increase will be added to salaries in January 2018 and backdated to July 2017. The increase on salaries due to employees from July to December (6 months) will be paid in two lump sums, the first in April 2018, the next in June 2018.
We are indebted to the CCMA who assisted in breaking the deadlock.