Failed SABC strike called off, union vows to continue pay hike fight

2017-11-04 10:56

Cape Town – The SABC strike by Bemawu has been called off after a day and a half on Friday afternoon with the trade union saying it will continue to fight for a 10% pay hike for staffers despite the "commercially insolvent" public broadcaster only offering a 0% increase.

Bemawu told its striking members to return to work after what it believed was a so-called "protected strike" was sabotaged by the abrupt withdrawal of the Communication Workers Union (CWU) after Bemawu and CWU were originally granted a joint strike notification from the CCMA.

The CWU's withdrawal from the dispute and strike meant the strike action was technically no longer protected.

The strike action inflicted some damage on the battered SABC, with more on-air SABC TV news mistakes than usual, and the SAfm radio station, Morning Live breakfast show on SABC2, and the main TV news on SABC3 and the SABC News (DStv 404) channel impacted by a shortage of staff.

'Workers angry and confused'

Despondent SABC workers are angry and confused, even more so after the failed strike attempt but not just because the strike was called off. 

Workers are upset that they're not getting any pay hike while the gutted public broadcaster has been looted by now mostly-gone top executives who got paid millions in salaries and pocketed vast sums of money in special bonuses that was paid improperly.

On Thursday SABC staffers at the SABC's headquarters in Auckland Park, Cape Town and Durban downed tools and took to the streets with public protests and banners, demanding a 10% salary increase.

Angry SABC staffers countrywide - in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban held up banners reading: "0% increase? Where are the money?", "SABC bosses = millions; staff = 0" and "Pay your TV Licence staff, it's the right thing to do".

Other banners read: "SABC = Animal Farm", "0% means I can't afford a real sign" and "No to 0%".

The pay hike is one of 13 demand Bemawu made to the SABC in mid-October.

The SABC interim board budgeted for no salary increase for staff before the new permanent SABC board took over two weeks ago, after the SABC made yet another, growing annual loss of R977m that was posted end-September.

The SABC is once again hovering on the brink of financial collapse, waiting for the government to give it another cash-injection in the form of a R3 billion government-backed bank loan guarantee without which the SABC can't get money.

The public broadcaster has been plagued by bad management, bad managerial decisions and upheaval at top executive and board level, with the government's Special Investigative Unit (SIU) currently conducting a wide-ranging probe into corruption, mismanagement and several dodgy contracts at the public broadcaster stretching back several years. 

On Friday SABC bosses again warned staffers in an internal email to return to work. The SABC told striking staffers to be back at work by 13:30, or face disciplinary hearings.

Bemawu said it will continue with its dispute, this time without the CWU.

The SABC in a statement on Friday at 16:00 said it acknowledges that Bemawu has suspended its strike action. "The SABC has always maintained that this protest action was unprotected, as communicated to all staff members."

The SABC said it "once again calls on all staff members to report for duty with immediate effect".

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