South African broadcaster SABC delays job cuts plan by a week

THE South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) is delaying a plan to lay off 600 employees by a week, following protests by some of its presenters and journalists, who have threatened a radio and TV blackout.

The SABC is among a clutch of heavily indebted state-owned firms that President Cyril Ramaphosa has promised to wean off public funding.

But this week the broadcaster’s board said it needed at least 1 billion rand ($65 million) per annum to keep operations going, and that its plan to cut costs by lowering headcount was not yet working.

“The Board of the SABC would like to announce that it will suspend the S189 process for a period of 7 days,” the public broadcaster said in a statement, referring to the law that employers must consult employees before implementing job cuts.

“This will allow all stakeholders to further engage and explore further options in an effort to ensure the financial sustainability of the SABC.”

The firm suffered a 511 million rand ($33 million) net loss in its 2019/20 financial year, compared with a 482 million rand loss the year before, according to its annual report. Revenue from advertising, sponsorship, and licence fees all fell by double-digit percentages.

The broadcaster announced the plan to cut jobs in June as part of a restructuring drive that dates back to 2018.

Its staff of around 3,000 permanent employees and 1,500 independent contractors remains amongst its biggest expenses. Unions blame the high salaries of middle management and executives for the bloated wage bill. – Thomson Reuters Foundation.