CWU suspends SABC strike for now

General views of the SABC building in Auckland Park, Johannesburg on 18 November 2020. Picture: Michel Bega

The Communications Workers Union would engage with the SABC, but launching an intense strike would depend on the outcome of talks.

The Communications Workers Union (CWU) has suspended strikes at the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) as the broadcaster has agreed to engage with the union to find alternatives that would scrap the proposed retrenchment plans.

The union had on Monday given the public broadcaster an ultimatum of withdrawing retrenchment letters issued to staff or else protests across SABC offices would intensify.

But the SABC had instead suspended the retrenchment process for 30 days. Redundancy letters would however continue to be issued.

CWU secretary general Aubrey Tshabalala said the strike would be halted pending the outcome of discussions, but they were unhappy that letters of redundancy and retrenchment continued to be issued.

“Our demand was that we want to engage and they must withdraw the retrenchment letters. We wanted them not to close the retrenchment engagements, which they have reopened after the strike. One area we are not yet in agreement with is the notices of retrenchment letters. In our view, it doesn’t create a balanced environment for discussions to unfold – which is what we are discussing now with our members.”

“To go into discussion with retrenchments pending is muddy waters. We are generally concerned about that… We want to see proposals and alternatives and to have a fair playground. That is why we are not going to cancel the strike. We will hold the strike up until the discussion comes to an end,” he said.

Despite the suspension of the strike, the union picketed outside parliament on Tuesday. The National Assembly was expected to debate on the SABC’s crisis on Monday, however, it was not yet clear when it will happen.

Tshabalala said the public broadcaster should allow for political intervention, as Communications Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams had previously stated before parliament that she opposed the looming retrenchments.

“There is a thin line between interference and intervention. SABC management played their cards very well. Anything now is interpreted as interference. When they wanted bail-out, they went to the Minister but when there are serious decisions like this to be taken, they call it interference. Political intervention is important because it affords the stakeholder or shareholder to make input. Ignoring of the shareholder in this regard demonstrates the arrogance of the SABC who has no revenue streams to take the SABC forward.”

rorisangk@citizen.co.za

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