Tuesday, 07 July 2009

Why Strike

BEMAWU has always been a responsible and professional union. We have, consistently remain the largest union at the SABC and continue to fight for the rights of our members.

We have stated on record that industrial action is a last resort. Our decision as a union to go on strike, is reserved for the most serious issues.

Our SABC is stands on the brink of total destruction. The proud organization we have built up over many years has made headlines in the world and local news; driven by fruitless and wasteful expenditure, corruption, political interference and in-fighting. Most notably however, is the financial situation the SABC finds itself in.

Last year during salary negotiations a multi-term salary agreement was proposed by management. This was to ensure labour peace during the Confederations Cup and the World Cup Soccer in 2010. BEMAWU initially refused to sign the agreement, because it was drafted in such a manner that our members could have been severely prejudiced by it. The prejudice was if the CPI-X was to be very low, i.e 4%, our salary increase for 2009 would have been 5 %.

However, towards November last year [2008] we realized that the CPI-X would pitch high, in which event the agreement would favour the members. BEMAWU signed the agreement. The agreement has a clause which stipulates if the average CPI-X goes below 4% or reaches 9% and above, any party may re-open negotiations. It is common knowledge that the average CPI-X for the year was 11.2%. In terms of the agreement the SABC is obliged to increase salaries by 12.2%. It has failed to do so.

Had the SABC followed sound practice (as BEMAWU had), its calculations would have shown that the CPI-X would pitch higher than 9%. The SABC was then supposed to have re-opened negotiations . It however failed to do so. The SABC waited until after the implementation date of 1 April and still failed to properly negotiate with BEMAWU. At the implementation date, and in absence of a new agreement, the SABC became liable for the CPI-X plus 1% (12.2%). As a result, the SABC is, and will remain liable for this percentage until it has negotiated a new percentage.

The SABC has made several offers, which were rejected by BEMAWU. In a nutshell we rejected these offers because they [the offers] did not address the implementation of the 12.2%.

The two other [SABC] unions referred disputes to the CCMA as “interest” disputes, whilst BEMAWU referred a “rights” dispute. An interest dispute is something you are not entitled to, but which you believe you can enforce by means on industrial action. A “rights” dispute is something you believe you have a clear right to, which may only be enforced via litigation (CCMA, Court). The other two unions had to abandon their right to the 12.2% increase in order to get permission to go on strike, and they did so at the CCMA and the Labour Court. The Labour Court granted permission for a strike.

BEMAWU still believes its members are entitled to the 12.2% increase and it should be enforced via arbitration. BEMAWU has indeed received a setdown notice for arbitration at the CCMA for 12 August 2009. However, in light of the Labour Court ruling that the dispute is a dispute of interest, BEMAWU approached SABC management yesterday to clarify what its stance would be at the CCMA on 12 August. If we wait until then, and they (the SABC) present the Labour Court ruling it may well be that the CCMA rules that our dispute is a dispute of interest too. BEMAWU will then not be able to proceed with arbitration.

Based on that, and other factors, BEMAWU has decided to ballot its members on a strike. At this point in time it will be a secondary strike; this would be considered a sympathy strike. The outcome of the ballot was in favour of a strike.

The way forward.

Today BEMAWU will give the SABC seven days notice; as required in terms of the Act. A “BEMAWU only” meeting will be held before we embark on any full scale industrial action. At the meeting members will discuss inter alia whether we should indeed proceed with a full scale strike, how this should be approached to maximum effective.

Some members voted against a strike; it is a democratic right to not go on strike and nobody will force or intimidate a member to strike, should we proceed with a strike. We are urging members to please attend the meeting that is scheduled for this week to voice your opinion.. “Come and listen to what others are saying why they want to go on strike. Come and ask questions which cannot be answered and discussed here.”

Most importantly, BEMAWU urges its members not to resign from the union if they do not want to go on strike. By doing so its members are playing into management’s hands in more than one way. It has been said openly that the SABC will have to retrench. “If you are not a union member, no-one will fight for you, and you may become a victim. We are fighting collectively for better conditions of employment for all. But our fist priority will always be our own members.” BEMAWU has made proposals in the past and it has done so again that a higher percentage increase should be awarded to unions members. This will save some money as a third of the bargaining unit is not unionized. Management is on record that they prefer that all employees belong to a union. If you are no longer a union member, you may find yourself in a group that will receive no increase at all, or maybe a lower percentage increase.

BEMAWU is hopeful that it will not be necessary to strike to reach agreement with the SABC. Members are however in control of the mandate, and have voted to proceed with a strike. “If you are prepared to accept a lower increase, we will discuss it in the meeting to follow this week.” BEMAWU will again meet with management and there is a possibility of a meeting with the Minister to try and reach agreement.

The medical doctors went on strike to improve their conditions of employment. They have decided to stand up and fight for not only their livelihoods, but for the sake of their families and because they owe it to them. It is not a crime or a shame to exercise constitutional rights and to strike.

Remember to visit our blog at http://bemawu.blogspot.com for instant news and updates. E-mails have become a very cumbersome and difficult way to communicate as it is constantly blocked and delayed.

No comments:

Post a Comment