SABC to proceed with retrenchments despite minister’s objections

Approximately 400 staff members are due to be axed.

The SABC is proceeding with the retrenchment of hundreds of staff while restructuring certain staff perks to cut costs, the public broadcaster said.

After lengthy consultations with stakeholders, the SABC announced on Wednesday that it was now ready to implement Section 189 of the Labour Relations Act, said acting spokesperson Mmoni Seapolelo.

“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 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,” Seapolelo said.

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In efforts to minimise the total number of affected staff, the restructuring would impact approximately 400 employees, which is less than the originally projected 600.

This figure could be further reduced as approximately 170 vacant positions would be made available for employees to apply for which could potentially reduce the number of affected staff to 230.

“All affected employees will be offered a severance package of one week for each completed year of service.”

For the remaining staff, salary increases are frozen for three years, annual and sick leave days are reduced and the cashing in of leave days is discontinued, Seapolelo said.

Group chief executive officer (CEO) Madoda Mxakwe said the retrenchment decision did not come easy but that it would prevent insolvency and reposition the SABC to achieve financial stability.

“An insolvent SABC serves no one, not our employees or our citizens who rely on the SABC for transparent, fair and ethical public broadcasting services. This retrenchment is understandably very challenging for all our stakeholders. However, it is one part of our approached turnaround plan that will help to reposition the SABC to achieve financial sustainability,” Mxakwe said.

The decision to retrench was rejected by the Communications Minister Stella-Ndabeni Abrahams in Parliament on Wednesday, saying the public broadcaster did not follow steps in terms of the outlined turnaround strategy.

In a written response to the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), Ndabeni-Abrahams said the Labour Relations Act required retrenchment to be the last resort.

“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.”

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