Tuesday, 12 October 2010

SABC - What financial crisis?

Yesterday I attended a CCMA Arbitration re an unfair labour practice.  One of our members employed in the Employee Relations Department of the SABC have been severely harassed and victimised by her line manager. In 2009 she had to attend a CCMA arbitration, but lost her voice due to Laryngitis. She duly informed the manager, handed in a sick certificate, but he refused to send someone else to the CCMA to attend the matter. The SABC got a default award against them to re-instate the applicant in that matter. She was then put through a disciplinary hearing for inter alia not attending the CCMA (without a voice), found guilty and issued with a final written warning valid for 12 months, despite the SABC’s Disciplinary Code clearly stipulating that a final written warning can only be valid for 8 months.

We referred an unfair labour practice dispute seeking to overturn the verdict and sanction. (No real prejudice to the SABC if it happens)

Yesterday the SABC arrived at the CCMA with an attorney and an advocate! To defend a simple unfair labour practice dispute. Or maybe to defend someone’s ego?

Seemingly attorneys and advocates get appointed for the simplest of matters. The SABC has a fully fledged legal department where they employ attorneys and advocates. It is in fact headed by an advocate.  The SABC also has a Employee Relations Department, where all are on senior managerial salary scales earning huge salaries and they are specifically employed to do labour litigation. Yet, the manager appoints advocates to litigate against employees and union officials.

Do we still need a legal department and employee relations department If attorneys and advocates are doing the job?  Recently the same Employee Relations Department shifted their job and responsibility to an ordinary employee (manager) to do a case at the CCMA. Is this not the way to go? Train individual employees and managers in labour relations, and make it part of their responsibilities to represent the SABC in CCMA matters. It is in any event a manager’s job.  In other matters appoint attorneys, which happens anyway. At least the SABC then saves on salaries and other benefits of 2 very expensive units, and only pay attorneys when they are needed. No costly monthly fixed salary bill – only legal cost when needed, which is paid currently anyway.

How much is the the SABC spending on legal fees, and why are they so frequently in court and at the CCMA?  The Durban 4 case, which the SABC, with their expensive advocates and attorneys lost resulted in legal costs of several Millions of rands. Seemingly everyone is OK with that, including the Internal Audit Department and the SABC Board. I wonder if the Special Investigations Unit has picked-up on it and if they will be OK with it? And the public, the tax payers.... It’s their money at the end of the day.

So the money is wasted, millions and millions and no one is held accountable. But dare to not attend a CCMA arbitration (without a voice) and immediate action is taken. Suddenly the dialogue between Scar and the mouse in the Lion King movie is getting a deeper meaning when this big, mean Lion held the tiny mouse by it’s tail ready to swallow it and said “Life's not fair, is it? I shall never be King and you... shall never see the light of another day.”


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