Monday, May 25, 2009

SOS & BEMAWU Update: Board Resignations, Communications from SABC dries up, DOC meeting, 702 interview, "In-sourcing" of production, union issues etc.

Another set of quick updates on the SOS Campaign for the last week - edited by SASFED and assembled for ease of reading.

  • Fadila Lagadien has now also resigned from the SABC Board. She is the third board member to resign. Please see article  at IOL here.
  • Producers are continuing to struggle to get paid. Communications from the SABC's side has dried up, yet as you willl note in the interview with Gabs on 702 he denies this. Producers had two important meetings last week - an emergency meeting on Monday with independent producers to consolidate their position and to plan a way forward and a second meeting on Tuesday last week to meet with the Department of Communications. 
  • As you will know protest action is being planned by the industry for the 4th of June. Further they have declared their lack of faith in SABC management, they have called for an interim management team to be put in place.
  • Kate spoke on Redi Direko's show on 702 on the 21st of May. She discussed the financial crisis at the SABC from 10:15 to 11:00, and was joined unexpectedly by Gabs Gabs Mampone, acting GCEO. He was saying that one of the ways forward on the producer crisis was to produce documentaries, dramas etc. in-house. This was the first time that independent producers had heard the suggestion. It was also not at all clear how the SABC was going to save money by adopting this new approach. . You can download the full interview here, and read more in a following SASFED blog post.
  • This weekend the Saturday Star was reporting that angry SABC staff were threatening to black out coverage of next month's Fifa Confederation Cup if their salary demands were not met. The unions are asking for a 12.5% increase the SABC is offering between 6 and 7%. The Sunday Independent claimed that the SABC has asked government for at least R2bn in the short term to get out of its present financial crisis but is still continuing to spend lavishly. 
  • Further to this, the Broadcast, Electronic, Media and Allied Workers Union (BEMAWU) responded that the threat of a black-out is devoid of all truth. They said a handful of disgruntled employees decided to picket outside the boardroom where they had their meeting with the Board on Friday. One or two individuals threatened with a strike, but the union says they explained to them the legal position, that they cannot strike as the union signed a collective agreement (the multi-term agreement) and this agreement specifically says the parties must refer any dispute in respect of the agreement to the CCMA. 
  • The Union met again with Board at 12:00 today to continue discussions. 
  • The union reported a disastrous meeting on Friday where the SABC senior management lied about communication with it's own board. They said If there was no multi-term agreement it could have resulted in a strike.
The following is a letter sent by the Union to it's SABC staff members, which explains this "multi-term" agreement which exists:

On Thursday, 21 May 2009 BEMAWU served a letter of demand on the SABC to effect the CPIX + 1% increase in terms of the Multi-term agreement signed last year. We made it clear we will proceed with legal action should the SABC not implement the 12%. We were called to an urgent meeting on Friday, 22 May 2009 with Khanyi Mkhonza and Mr. Andile Mbeki of the Board. The CPO, CFO and other members of the Board/Management also attended.

We made it clear that we are not there to negotiate a percentage increase, but that we want to enforce our right in terms of the Multi-term Agreement.

The SABC admitted and acknowledged that SABC employees are entitled to the 12% increase. They explained the financial difficulty they are finding themselves in to us (again), and undertook to report back to us Monday, 25 May 2009 at 12:00 as to how they intend to implement the 12%.

Please note that a looming strike in respect of the salary increase is devoid of all truth at this stage. This however does not mean that we are not prepared to embark on procedural industrial action as and when the need arises.

We believe the SABC will implement 7% immediately, and discuss with us how to implement the rest in today's meeting. We are hopeful that we can reach an amicable agreement with them to avoid further legal action.

  • BEMAWU also made the observation regarding Gabs comments on "in-sourching" on the radio, that while obviously in-sourcing might increase their membership base.. they recalled that in 1997 McKensey recommended that the SABC do away with non-core business. They closed SAFRITEL which was responsible for producing content. They question why they paid millions to do that then and laid off thousands of staff and now they want to “insource” again? 
  • The Parliamentary Portfolio Committee chairs have been announced. Ismail Vadi will continue to chair the Comms Portfolio Committee. This is good news for SOS since they have built up a good relationship with Ismail.
  • Dr. Melanie Chait, an ex-SABC board member and media trainer has sent through some thoughts on board appointments. She is arguing for a strong industry presence on the Board. Industry organisations are encouraged to nominate people and get in touch with SOS on their ideas.
  • Finally, Misa  announced that the SABC is finally screening its controversial Special Assignment programme on satire.