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04 February 2011

SABC Turnaround

SABC underway with its turnaround strategy, unions keeping a close eye.
Published: 2011/02/01 06:37:11 AM

IMPLEMENTATION of the SABC’s turnaround strategy is under way, and work streams have been created to analyse its divisions’ operational functions .

However, trade unions are concerned that the strategy is a short-term solution to satisfy the Treasury and has no long-term developmental aims.

The SABC is under pressure to draw up and implement its turnaround strategy, which includes retrenchments to reduce its R78m salary bill. The Treasury requires the strategy to be drawn up before it releases the remaining R473m of its loan to the SABC.

Unions that have met with the SABC over the past three months — including the Broadcast, Electronic, Media and Allied Workers Union, the Media Workers Association of SA (Mwasa) and the Communication Workers Union — are critical of the basic strategy presented to them. It deals with the next three years at the most, they say.

Mwasa has warned the SABC that its strategy’s "stance is on reducing overheads and improving, if not just stabilising, management of expenditure".

The SABC has started with setting up working groups headed by the relevant division’s executive or senior manager to look at how operations are functioning .

It is also considering not rehiring at least 20 senior management employees. They are on fixed- term contracts which are up for renewal in about three months .

The quandary facing the SABC is that rolling over these contracts in April — which would give it more time to restructure, and prevent loss of expertise — could have serious financial implications should it decide to terminate them well into their new terms.

The framework for union- SABC engagement requires a restructuring subcommittee to be set up by the board to liaise with the unions and consolidate information from the working groups in the various divisions.

Once the proposed new organisational structure for the broadcaster has been completed, in consultation with the unions, it would be presented to the board. Labour would be involved throughout to reduce dismissals and retrenchments.

No large-scale retrenchments are being envisaged, but the SABC has not ruled out voluntary retrenchment or early retirement "when the new organisational structure has finally been approved and adopted".

Mwasa last week warned the SABC in a statement that it would take legal action if the broadcaster did not stop advertising and filling vacant posts.

SABC spokesman Kaizer Kganyago said such posts were crucial to its operations and the broadcaster would continue to consult with the unions about its turnaround strategy.
A meeting is believed to be scheduled between labour and the SABC for later this week. The three unions declared a dispute last year after accusing the SABC of not consulting with them.

The original article was posted in Business Day.

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