Cape Town – Strike action could come as soon as Sunday as SABC staffers become no-shows after the new permanent SABC board refused a 10% salary hike for SABC workers at the cash-strapped South African public broadcaster awaiting another R3bn government bailout.
The Auditor-General called the SABC “commercially insolvent”, with Africa’s largest public broadcaster posted yet another annual loss of R977m at the end of September. Meanwhile the SABC is awaiting yet another government bailout since its last one in 2009 of R1.4bn.
The SABC asked treasury for R3bn that will likely be in the form of a government-guaranteed bank loan, in order to remain afloat, although treasury has not given any indication yet whether it will approve another bailout.
The Broadcasting, Electronic, Media & Allied Workers Union (Bemawu) and the Communication Workers Union (CWU) who demand a 10% salary increase and a guarantee of the payment of a 13th bonus cheque payment in December, say SABC staffers will be ready to down tools as part of a protected strike that could happen from as early as Sunday.
The SABC 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 pubcaster stretching back several years.
Unions say staffers “have been subjected to threats and fear, unilateral restructurings, change of work practices and shift roster, appointments without advertising positions and a zero-percentage increase”.
No strike notice served
By Friday morning the SABC has not yet been served with a notice from staff about a strike.
The Mwasa union is against a strike and says “it is amply obvious that the SABC is in a bad state financially, operationally, in terms of consumer and business confidence”, saying that “the call for a strike is curious under these circumstances noting in particular the growing incapacity of the national purse to fund expenditure”.
“There is no autommatic right to a salary increment,” says Mwasa. “A demand for a salary increment must not be entertained simply because it is habit to demand and receive.”
“A demand must be justified, justifiable, affordable on a proven sustainability basis going forward. SABC employees have repeatedly received above inflation increases primarily because the reckless leadership of recent had used ‘organised labour’ on a rent-a-crowd-basis and dispensed with crumbs of patronage which were recieved without question.”