More job losses loom, de­spite Ramaphosa’s promises

The Citizen (KZN) - - News - Gcina Nt­saluba

Even as Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa was promis­ing – dur­ing his State of the Na­tion ad­dress (Sona) last night – con­crete ac­tion to tackle un­em­ploy­ment, thou­sands of people around the coun­try were facing im­mi­nent re­trench­ments.

And, if Ramaphosa’s promises don’t be­come re­al­ity and the econ­omy con­tin­ues its down­ward tra­jec­tory, many more thou­sands could find them­selves on the street this year.

The loom­ing clo­sure of Ton­gaat Hulett’s sugar mill in Dar­nall, which will cost the jobs of nearly 400 work­ers, is just one ex­am­ple. Oth­ers in­clude Eskom, South African Brew­eries (SAB), Educor, Aspen and Sibanye-Still­wa­ter, which are all re­ported to be re­trench­ing staff.

At South African Airways, business res­cue prac­ti­tion­ers are in­volved in a le­gal bat­tle with unions over their plans to make the air­line leaner and more ef­fi­cient, which would in­evitably mean more re­trench­ments.

Ac­cord­ing to econ­o­mist Mike Schus­sler, these job cuts are a re­sult of all the years of cor­rup­tion un­der for­mer pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma.

“There is no doubt that these re­trench­ments are going to hurt our econ­omy but, be­lieve it or not, they are nec­es­sary be­cause our eco­nomic growth is too slow,” said Schus­sler.

He said that if the coun­try con­tin­ued on the same growth path as last year, which was less than 2%, there would be more job losses next year.

He said SA needed a more business-friendly at­ti­tude on the part of gov­ern­ment.

“If we do not see a more business-friendly at­ti­tude, then I am afraid the econ­omy will shrink even fur­ther and we can ex­pect more losses,” he said.

Po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst Daniel Silke said: “The main prob­lem is that any re­form that the pres­i­dent wants to in­tro­duce will get stuck in the po­lit­i­cal quick­sand of ANC poli­cies.”

He said that since the ANC was head­ing to­wards the 2021 lo­cal gov­ern­ment elections, the is­sues sur­round­ing youth un­em­ploy­ment, job creation and state cap­ture would play a role in how people vote.

Silke said Ramaphosa was un­der im­mense pres­sure to play a bal­anc­ing act by in­tro­duc­ing new eco­nomic re­form poli­cies that were prac­ti­cal, while also an­swer­ing to the ANC.

“What South Africa needs is a rad­i­cal over­haul of our gov­er­nance and policy frame­work,” he said.

Mean­while, cash-strapped power util­ity Eskom said it had started with of­fer­ing vol­un­tary sev­er­ance pack­ages (VSP) to se­nior em­ploy­ees and the process would be im­ple­mented dur­ing March and April.

In a state­ment is­sued yes­ter­day, Eskom said there would be no forced re­trench­ments and the VSP ex­cluded work­ers at the lower lev­els (non­man­age­rial).

“Eskom will en­sure that no crit­i­cal skills will be lost as a re­sult of the pro­gramme and man­age­ment will take ev­ery pre­cau­tion to en­sure that the VSP process caters to the best in­ter­ests of Eskom,” read the state­ment.

Through this process, Eskom said it would spend R400 mil­lion in order to cut over­head costs.

“The pur­pose of the sep­a­ra­tion process is to ra­tion­alise man­age­ment lay­ers, which will lead to an ef­fi­ciently run com­pany.”

An­other af­fected com­pany which is look­ing to cut about 500 jobs is SAB, which con­firmed it was in the process of re­view­ing its business op­er­a­tions in light of the pre­vail­ing eco­nomic con­di­tions in South Africa.

Spokesper­son Refilwe Masemola said the review would af­fect only a small mi­nor­ity of its work­force in spe­cific ar­eas and not across the business as a whole. “In do­ing so, SAB will, at the same time, im­ple­ment ac­tions to iden­tify growth op­por­tu­ni­ties that could cre­ate fu­ture em­ploy­ment prospects, thereby en­abling SAB to re­turn to its cur­rent level of em­ploy­ment,” said Masemola.

She said SAB had ap­proached the Com­mis­sion for Con­cil­i­a­tion, Me­di­a­tion and Ar­bi­tra­tion, in con­sul­ta­tion with the The Food and Al­lied Work­ers Union, in order to min­imise the im­pact of job losses, where pos­si­ble.

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