“They refuse to recognise the union, which is against labour law,” said Ncedo Ngcama of National Health Education & Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) this week.
He was referring to the state’s film body the National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF) and in particular chief executive Zama Mkosi and her human resource manager after another fruitless week of trying to represent 21 of the 30-odd staff members during a restructuring or organisational design (OD) process that, he says, will see some staff members lose their jobs.
He says Nehawu has been battling for recognition by the NFVF for eight or nine months now.
“We have no option now but to take them to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration. We have sent them a letter giving them seven days to respond and recognise the union, else we’re off to court,” he added.
He was particularly irked that Mkosi refuses to recognise staff as shop stewards because of confidentiality issues and also accuses the NFVF of victimising some union members on staff.
Mkosi denied the claims vehemently, telling City Press: “Please be advised that the NFVF is acutely aware of the provisions of the Labour Relations Act and has to date complied and will continue to comply with its provisions in its dealings with staff as well as the union in this matter.
“The NFVF does not have a signed recognition agreement with any union. Once signed, the agreement will articulate the terms of engagement between the organisation, its staff and the union and these will be duly complied with.”
Toxic work environment
In March 2017 virtually all NFVF staff members, except senior managers, wrote a detailed letter of grievance to the arts minister, exposing alleged mismanagement, squandering of money on luxury trips to film festivals and poor human resources practice.
They described their offices as “toxic” and singled out Mkosi and former chief financial officer Karen Sonn. Sonn has subsequently left the NFVF under a cloud amid an investigation into the staff’s claims and other matters.
City Press also investigated their claims and wrote several revealing reports on how money is spent at the NFVF
One of Mkosi’s many-pronged strategies to deal with the staff problems was to embark on a re-evaluation of the entire organisational structure of the NFVF.
But staff remain deeply unhappy, believing they will be victimised in the process because they have spoken out. The foundation has bled senior staff in the past two years.
“Staff morale is at its lowest ever. Nobody knows if they will keep their jobs,” said one staffer, who wishes to remain anonymous, this week.
No phones or internet
City Press spoke to two other staff members who confirmed the statement and said that there seemed to be a problem with payments since Sonn left.
Staff said that the telephones and internet were cut off in their office this week, apparently because of non-payment.
Mkosi responded by saying: “If any staff member or third party are negatively affected by the manner in which NFVF conducts its operations, there are proper channels to be followed to address these. Failing to access such appropriate channels but rather going to the media with questions of such an operational nature is disappointing and certainly not in the public interest.”
Many film makers disagree, though, repeatedly calling for transparency at the body that funds their projects.
Mkosi would also not say how much has been spent on legal consultants to guide the OD process.
Mkosi would also not comment on whether the NFVF’s evaluation process for bids for its annual South African Film and Television Awards (Saftas) had taken place yet.
The glitzy event is under threat because of a cancellation of the tender process, which City Press has reported on recently.
Industry insiders say that if bids are not evaluated speedily the awards will be a flop.
A forensic investigation into the NFVF has also been concluded by the department of arts and culture (DAC).
Last year DAC spokesperson Zimasa Velaphi told City Press that the report would be made public after it was sent to the NFVF council.
This week she told City Press, “There’s has not been a movement yet in terms of the report being sent to NFVF.”
Curiously, though, she seems to be mistaken because Mkosi told City Press this week: “The council chair received the forensic report last week. An urgent special council meeting was held this week to consider the report with a view to determine the appropriate action and steps to be taken. This process is now underway.”
It remains unclear when the report will be made public.