New union accuses Tiso Blackstar of jumping the gun with staff cuts | Fin24

New union accuses Tiso Blackstar of jumping the gun with staff cuts

May 09 2019 18:46
Khulekani Magubane, Fin24

The South African Typographical Union has joined the Information, Communications and Technology Union in calling for Tiso Blackstar Group [JSE:TBG] to consider other measures before shedding editorial staff for operational purposes.

The union has also accused Tiso Blackstar Group - which is home to award-winning publications such as the Sunday Times, Business Day and Financial Mail - of undermining its presence in the company by threatening to stop deduction of subscription fees for the union’s members.

Tiso Blackstar is currently in the process of section 189 process in terms of the Labour Relations Act, which allows employers to dismiss employees in order to keep operations going in a sustainable manner. According to the Labour Relations Act, the subscription amount payable by the members a union can be calculated as a percentage of an employee's salary or, if there are two or more registered trade unions party to the agreement, the highest amount of the subscription that would apply to an employee.

This is determined on the basis of threshold conditions agreed upon between employers and unions.

An internal Tiso Blackstar email, which Fin24 has seen, says that the company has proposed "broad restructuring of its editorial operations as a result of economic headwinds". In addition, the email blames "poor performance" in the six months leading to December for a state that worsened in the first quarter of 2019.

Khwezi Makhathini of SATU told Fin24 that union’s secretary general, Edward de Klerk, was in discussions with Tiso Blackstar to find a solution to the matter.

Makhathini said the union did not deserve to be punished by the company, as the union did not partake in a recent go-slow protest, which was part of strike action by the Information Communication and Technology Union.

"We had an issue with Tiso Blackstar over in the Eastern Cape region, specifically at The Herald. The company said they would no longer do the union subscription deductions. We already had organisational rights, so this was a bit of a surprise," said Makhathini.

Makhathini said the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) in Port Elizabeth ruled in SATU’s favour regarding subscription deductions.

"Tiso was instructed to continue with deductions. Weeks after that we got the Section 189 notice. Discussions are ongoing," Makhathini said.

Deputy managing director at Tiso Blackstar Moshoeshoe Monare told Fin24 that subscription deductions, provided for in terms of Section 13 of Labour Relations Act, following an agreement between the employer and a union, are not an automatic right but subject to membership threshold conditions.

"Therefore, any union not meeting that threshold is informed accordingly and given a chance, as per LRA, to meet the threshold or else the stop order deductions ceases to take effect. We did inform SATU of this particular threshold condition, but the matter was resolved and settled at the CCMA. Therefore, their stop order deductions continue to be processed through the company," said Monare.

Tiso Blackstar managing director Andrew Gill told Fin24 on Tuesday that Tiso Blackstar announced a planned restructuring of its daily news operations two weeks ago, as a result of weak economic conditions.

Gill also said Tiso Blackstar could not publicly comment on internal communication or correspondence to its employees.

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