As we move into the new financial year, we see many of the commissions of enquiry set up by governments coming into their own. The various commissions are digging up more and more dirt against senior management of all the parastatals. Surprisingly, many of these parastatals haven’t taken disciplinary action against their senior management who have clearly done wrong. We all wait with bated breath as to when they are going to be dismissed and when criminal action is going to be taken against them.
What is interesting is that many of these parastatals are set to be overstaffed by more than 50% and government at this stage is too scared to effect the retrenchments to bring the parastatals in line with the private sector. Eskom has double the amount of staff that it needs, and we were told that many of these employees are paid about 30% above what they would receive in the private sector. Over and above this many of the employees in key positions are unable to perform their tasks and already Minister Gordhan has stated that government is going to have to try and find skills in some of the people that initially had been retrenched. Unfortunately, Eskom is affecting the entire business community and no solutions appear to be imminent. I strongly believe that any suggestions made by the advisory team will not be adhered to at least until after the elections as the ruling party does not want any fall out with its partner Cosatu and certainly doesn’t want a negative reaction to run throughout the workforce of the various parastatals. This negative reaction will affect the voting patterns and will not be acceptable to the ruling party. There has been much talk about a possible downgrade again from the rating agencies. Eskom will indeed be a problem when the rating agencies have to consider moving us to possibly junk status. Moving us to junk status will affect every single business in the country and will indeed lead to more and more retrenchments. This is not a happy scenario and is certainly the low road.
The national minimum wage has been introduced and although there have been very few complaints and referrals to the CCMA about the national minimum wage, we have seen the retrenchments in the country going up radically. I conducted an oversight visit to the CCMA in Cape Town and in Johannesburg and I was accompanied by Senior Commissioners on both visits. During the course of these visits I was able to ascertain that the referral numbers to the CCMA for February were at least 15% higher from February last year in both centres. Many of these referrals are about financial disputes. It will be noted that if an employee has a financial dispute only i.e. non payment of wages or short payment of wages or even non payment of overtime or holiday pay, this can be referred directly to the CCMA and does not have to go through the Department of Labour. In fact, the Department of Labour are specifically referring all these financial disputes on to the CCMA. It is common knowledge that if an organisation is working well but it is at its peak it can be destroyed if too much of a workload is lumped on to it. The CCMA have been begging the Minister of Labour for more funds to employ more Commissioners and to train more Commissioners. It also appears that the CCMA needs more space and more equipment. Hopefully these referrals do not break the back of the CCMA. It would be a crying shame for an overburdened CCMA to have a negative effect on all its functions and to reduce it to the same as any other department which never gets anything done. The CCMA after all, is the crown in the jewel of The Department of Labour. Unlike the UIF which is almost dysfunctional and unlike the workmen’s Compensation which has not worked for twenty years, the CCMA is working fantastically and produces results within days. We don’t want to reduce the CCMA to that same level.
I have promised to visit the CCMA again at the end of May this year in order to ascertain the functioning and the viability of the CCMA after the new figures have kicked in.
We are expecting some strikes before the national elections which will take place on the 8th May 2019. It should be noted that the 8th May has been declared to be a public holiday. If anyone is going to ask their staff to come in on that day, they are going to have to make arrangements for the staff to be able to vote and will also have to pay the staff double.