Unions, SABC to face off in Labour Court

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File: The SABC has denied that there was any ulterior motive to canning the Sunday morning show, The Editors.

CAPE TOWN - Solidarity and the Broadcasting, Electronic, Media, and Allied Workers Union (BEMAWU) are set to square off with the SA Broadcasting Corporation in the Labour Court over the dismissal of its members.

On Monday, four Solidarity Members – Krivani Pillay‚ Jacques Steenkamp‚ Foeta Krige and Suna Venter – were handed letters of dismissal. A day later, Bemawu members Busisiwe Ntuli and Lukhanyo Calata were informed they were being dismissed with immediate effect.

Solidarity said while it had already filed papers in the Labour Court challenging the suspensions of its four members, it would now file an additional affidavit asking the court to set aside the dismissals and for any disciplinary processes to be stayed pending the outcome of several legal challenges against the SABC.

The legal processes the union is referring to is an application by eight suspended SABC journalists for direct access to the Constitutional Court to declare unlawful the broadcaster’s decision to not air footage of violent protest action. The journalists were suspended after speaking out against the new editorial policy.

In another application in the North Gauteng High Court, the Helen Suzman Foundation have cited the SABC, its board, it controversial chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng, and Communications Minister Faith Muthambi as respondents in its legal bid to stop the broadcaster from following through on its decision to censor the reporting of protests.

The SABC is also taking on review an order by the Independent Communications Authority of SA for the broadcaster to withdraw the decision to stop airing violent protests.

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"We say lift the dismissals and stop any disciplinary processes until all legal processes are finished, then we will have a clear indication of what the courts are saying on the SABC’s decisions," said Solidarity chief executive Dirk Herman.

Herman said if the Labour Court granted them a temporary interdict, the journalists could return to work and "do the important job of reporting truthfully, particularly on the upcoming local government elections".

Bemawu said it was also bypassing the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) and going directly to the Labour Court to challenge the dismissals of Calata and Ntuli.

"The problem is you can’t follow the normal process because the SABC did not follow the normal process of suspension, then a disciplinary process where you plead and face your accusers.

"They just dismissed the workers and so now that would warrant an extraordinary process from our side to counteract this," said Bemawu spokesman Hannes du Buisson.

Solidarity’s case against the SABC has been set down for Thursday in the Labour Court in Johannesburg. It was not immediately clear when Bemawu’s application would be heard.

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