The department that collects licence fees at the SABC has been severely impacted after 26 staff members received notice that they had apparently been fired on Wednesday.
Several of the staff members confirmed the reports to City Press as did their union representative, Tuwani Gumani, the general secretary of the Media Workers Association of South Africa.
The SABC denies that their claims are accurate.
Licence collection is a core element of the public broadcaster’s revenue and this division has been plagued by brazen decisions made by disgraced former SABC boss Hlaudi Motsoeneng.
Motsoeneng put the licence collection agents, originally outsourced from a global company called Teleresources, onto three year contracts.
“These contracts do not comply with labour regulations or the SABC’s own guidelines. They do not give reporting times, they just say workers must work a 40-hour week. The contracts are for only three years with no benefits or bonuses.
The Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) appears to be a cut-and-paste of the old Teleresources SOP. In fact it even states that workers must report to their Teleresources manager to apply for leave. This is a non-existing authority,” says Gumani.
The 26 workers then went on what Gumani says was a legal go slow, underscored by a CCMA certificate enabling industrial action.
“Then suddenly, after months of go slow, we got letters saying we’ve been suspended and were informed, on 6 March, of a disciplinary hearing to be held two days later,” said one of the workers.
“We arrived at the hearing but there was no chairperson so it was postponed.”
This week the staffers received letters that read: “You are hereby notified you are relieved from your duties. You will be dully [sic] notified of the date to attend a disciplinary inquiry…”
Gumani is angry and confused. “This indicates they were fired – irregularly and with the anomaly of sanction before inquiry instead of the other way round. They are then informed they are still on full pay. Are they dismissed? Suspended? We don’t even know.”
He claimed that the workers were also fired because the SABC learned that Mwasa had arranged to meet with the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on communications this week to take their complaint forward.
But SABC spokesperson Mmoni Seapolelo disputed Gumani’s claims.
She said: “The employees referred to committed an act of misconduct in that they embarked on an ‘unprotected strike action’ which was not in compliance with the provisions of the Labour Relations Act and SABC policies.
Despite numerous attempts by management to dissuade them from continuing with this unlawful action they continued with the action.
Consequently they were subjected to an internal disciplinary process which was in compliance with the requirements of procedural and substantive fairness.
The SABC management followed all the required prescripts in arriving at the pronouncement, based on the submissions presented before the aforesaid disciplinary process. It is also important that we do not engage in any further detail in the public domain as this matter is still in progress internally.”
Some insiders told City Press Mwasa was trying to hold the SABC to ransom, others expressed solidarity with the sacked workers.