Parliament’s portfolio committee on communications has reiterated its stance that the South African Broadcasting Corporation’s (SABC’s) handing out of Section 189 letters is “premature”.
The committee was briefed by the SABC and the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies on the latest developments at the broadcaster, after it decided to implement Section 189 of the Labour Relations Act.
According to corporate law firm Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr’s employment retrenchment guideline, a Section 189 notice is a written notice inviting employees to engage on issues regarding the possibility of retrenchments. It is not a termination notice, but is issued as soon as retrenchment becomes a viable option.
Once Section 189 notices were handed out, however, a 60-day consultation period must take place, only after which notices of termination of employment can be issued.
Committee chairperson Boyce Maneli said while it was acknowledged that the SABC was currently facing financial challenges, the broadcaster needed to “do the right thing”.
The committee said it felt the SABC should consult openly with all stakeholders and sister entities “in order to find meaningful ways to reposition the corporation”.
Maneli said according to the SABC, 43% of its revenue currently went toward salaries.
He said the committee would meet with the SABC in due course “to discuss the broader intervention strategy that is needed”.
This included closer consideration of the SABC’s policies, and the legislative framework required to unlock alternate revenue streams.
In the interim, employees were struggling with the uncertain climate at the SABC.
An employee with more than 30 years’ service told News24 that staff members were despondent and uncertain about the future.
“No one knows where they stand. It’s difficult to imagine what’s going to happen next. People are still doing their work but it’s hard to stay motivated.”
The employee said that staff had known “for some time” that retrenchments were imminent.
Deputy chairperson of the SABC board, Mamodupi Mohlala-Mulaudzi, told The Citizen on Wednesday that five board members stood in solidarity with staff members over the impending retrenchments.
She slammed the process, saying it already had a significant impact on staff morale, and that mass retrenchments would hinder the SABC due to a loss of skills..
“There are other ways for cost cutting and to reduce salaries, such as the freezing of salary increases and bonuses, rather than retrenching people.”
Compiled by Nica Richards. Additional reporting by News24 Wire.