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SABC denies new plans to retrench staff to cut salary bill

Jul 14 2019 11:13
Canny Maphanga and Jan Cronje

The South African Broadcasting Corporation has denied it has new plans to retrench up to a third of its staff in a bid to save costs. 

This after the Sunday Times reported that the broadcaster's latest turnaround strategy includes proposals to reduce management by 37%, cut news news staff by 25% and close five offices. 

"The SABC would like to put on record that it does not have any new plans to retrench staff, and the journalist only enquired about the 11 pre-conditions in relation to the SABC’s application for funding to National Treasury. There was no discussion around the issue of retrenchments," spokesperson Vuyo Mthembu said in a short statement on Sunday.

"It must be reiterated that on 31 January 2019, the corporation announced that it had aborted the process of Section 189 of the Labour Relations Act and would not renew the notice to invoke Section 189."

Fin24 has not seen the document the Sunday Times based its reporting on. 

The SABC in 2018 had outlined plans to cut its salary bill by retrenching up to 981 permanent and 1200 freelance staff, but ultimately scrapped the idea in late January 2019 after coming in for sharp criticism by employees and some political parties. 

The ANC, at the time, said state-owned enterprises should "exhaust all avenues before resorting to retrenchments".

Trouble paying salaries 

The SABC is currently in R1.3 billion in debt, and needs an estimated R3 billion loan to keep operating and retain jobs. 

In mid-June the group's Chief Financial Officer, Yolandi van Biljon, said even the payment of staff salaries was "extremely uncertain".

It's a day-to-day monitoring situation," she said. 

Mthembu said the public broadcaster is currently undergoing a skills audit.

"The results of the skills audit in relation to staff optimisation will be fully engaged with all stakeholders, including Organised Labour and employees of the SABC," he said. 

"The SABC requests that the process of the funding application be allowed to be finalised, in order not to create panic and uncertainty amongst SABC employees and the public at large."

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