Broadcasting Services

South Africa: SABC Workers Take Grievances To SA Presidency Over Retrenchments

On Wednesday afternoon, the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) staff is set to march to the seat of government and the highest office in their country - the Union Building, to handover a memorandum of demands to President Cyril Ramaphosa asking him to intervene in the organisation's looming retrenchments.

The Communications Workers Union (CWU) has also called for President to dissolve the SABC board of directors, which it claims has failed in its duty to run the SABC and ensure it maintains its public mandate.

The union says the best option would be for the government to dismiss the board and place the struggling public broadcaster under administration. These utterances and actions come as the public broadcaster finds itself entangled in a tug-of-war with labour unions over its plans to retrench over 300 workers as part of its restructuring process aimed at saving costs.

The clash between the labour unions and the SABC management has been ongoing since November 2020 when the public broadcaster announced a series of plans to restructure including a three-year salary freeze, reduction of leave days and a halt in the cashing in of leave days.

Wednesday's strike action led by CWU is set to begin at the SABC's headquarters at Auckland Park with a motorcade that will drive to the Union Buildings in Tshwane to hand over a memorandum the President. "The deadlock between the CWU and the SABC has dictated to us that we should indeed embark on industrial action. This is intending to force SABC to reconsider its position, and we believe that we can do that and that it is achievable," said CWU General-Secretary, Aubrey Tshabalala.

Tshabalala says among the grievances they are set to deliver to Ramaphosa is their strong disapproval of the turnaround strategy mentioned by the SABC, as the CWU believes it regresses the gains that were attained in the advent of democracy 1994. Tshabalala also says the marginalisation of indigenous languages was also high on their agenda because SABC Regions like Limpopo have languages such as Venda and Tsonga put into one bundle one administration, even though each has massive listenership.

"This is also the case with Sesotho and Setswana's languages on radio, which is Lesedi FM and Motsweding FM. They are combined as a Free State combo, and we have languages in Mpumalanga such as isiNdebele and siSwati that are clustered, but priority is given to English and Afrikaans." "That in itself brings about elements of tribalism, and it's a dangerous thing to play with as the public broadcaster in that space. Another demand is that the position of outsourcing is worrisome.

"We are beginning to empower the private institutions at the expense of the public broadcaster, at the expense of workers, because those who stand to benefit are those in the private sector and we are saying there should be no outsourcing at the SABC," Tshabalala said.

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