SABC to restructure, retrench to reduce multi-billion rand salary bill

JOHANNESBURG - It’s still not clear how many people will be affected by retrenchments at the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC).

The public broadcaster has informed unions and staff that a restructuring process is underway and is expected to end in retrenchments.

The three-month process will help the SABC reduce its annual salary bill of billions and plug holes in its bank account.

Years of mismanagement and questionable policies like the 90/10 music policy have seen advertisers pull out, putting the public broadcaster in a precarious financial position. 

In the 2016 financial year, the SABC recorded a net loss of close to a billion rand.

Last year losses were down to R722 million. 

With R26 million in the bank at the end of August and R694 million owed to creditors, the SABC was faced with liquidity challenges and could not pay its bills. 

According to Hannes du Buisson of the Broadcasting, Electronic, Media, and Allied Workers Union (BEMAWU), " “We need to streamline business processes, we need to replace management who are employed who have never applied for positions, it was just given to them, so they are not there on merit they are there because they were favoured by someone in the previous regime.”

In an attempt to increase revenue, the broadcaster has upped its licence fees in what BEMAWU calls a questionable move, the biggest union at the public broadcaster.  

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The corporation currently employs about 3500 staff members.

If this plan succeeds, hundreds of people will find themselves out work by December this year. 

Following a management meeting with staff, it’s still not clear who will be retrenched and how many workers will be affected.

According to Du Buisson, " That information has not been shared. If anyone goes with the media reports that we have been seeing, it could be 800 or more. We believe that could be more or less [the number of] people that might be losing their jobs.”

BEMAWU says if the public broadcaster is serious about cutting costs, it should cut the fat at the top.

“We fail to understand how a board member can pocket R1 million a year - he is supposed to offer a free service to the public of South Africa, it should be an honour to serve the SABC board, you should not get paid for that.”

In a statement released on Friday afternoon, the SABC said it's CEO, Madoda Mxakwe addressed staff on Friday "and communicated the dire financial state that the SABC finds itself in. 

"One of the SABC’s biggest cost drivers is the salary bill. To put this into context, the SABC is an R7.2 billion revenue generating company with a salary bill of R3.1 billion. The current ratio of venue to wage bill is not sustainable given the SABC’s dismal financial situation. It is for this reason that the SABC is contemplating other cost-cutting measures to further reduce costs."

The SABC said its next step is to engage in joint consensus-seeking consultations with organised labour.