SABC will run out of money for wages in March, as staff wonder where the biscuits went

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Mr Mathatha Tsedu poses for a picture after a lecture held at UNISA in Pretoria, 3 November 2015. Picture: Tracy Lee Stark

The lack of hand towels and biscuits were among the topics flying around an SABC board members’ meeting to discuss retrenchments on Tuesday.

Board member Mathatha Tsedu feels it is necessary to invoke section 189 of the Labour Relations Act, as a number of cost-saving measures are needed. The auditor-general has already declared the SABC a non-going concern.

Tsedu told parliament on Tuesday that the SABC may be unable to pay salaries in March, unless Treasury can somehow find a way to bail them out again. He said they would probably struggle to pay full salaries in February.

Tsedu had earlier told the board: “Sometimes you go into the toilets and you cannot find hand towels.” This was part of him painting a picture about the dire situation at the public broadcaster.

The members had tabled their plans to cut costs. Some of the proposed measures were to restrict the purchasing of refreshments, not hiring venues, limiting the attendance of conferences and workshops, limiting the printing of documents, and monitoring consulting fees.

One of the worrying discussions highlighted was that there were cases of four people who were doing the same job, which could be done quite easily by one person.

Irregular promotions and increases were some of the issues to be looked into as they contributed to the already inflated salary bill of the corporation.

The SABC’s chief operating officer, Chris Maroleng, mentioned that some employees were complaining they could not get biscuits, which was “something they were used to”.

Meanwhile, the broadcaster has been given until next Friday to respond to the Communications Workers’ Union’s demands or face the consequences.

The protesters handed over a memorandum to group CEO Madoda Mxakwe, giving the broadcaster seven days to reverse the decision to retrench employees.

Faced with bloated staff numbers, a high wage bill, and the consequences of the millions of rands squandered during Hlaudi Motsoeneng’s tenure as chief operating officer, the cash-strapped SABC recently announced plans to retrench about 1,000 staff and 1,200 freelancers.

The job-cutting would yield a cost saving of about R400 million yearly, according to the SABC.

To back its restructuring strategy, the SABC management has also supplied shocking figures, showing its total revenue for the 2017-18 financial year stood at R6.6 billion against a R7.3 billion budget.

Mxakwe, Maroleng, and human resources chief Jonathan Thekiso were booed when they came to accept the memorandum of demands from the Communications Workers Union (CWU) and Broadcasting, Electronic, Media and Allied Workers Union (Bemawu) over the weekend.

(Compiled by Gopolang Chawane)

The Citizen