'SABC employee disputes no public interest'

The SABC was on Sunday tight-lipped over a newspaper report that it has allegedly suspended its popular 7pm newsreader, Mahendra Raghunath.

“I refuse to discuss staff issues. It doesn’t help anyone,” said spokesman Kaizer Kganyago.

“It’s a matter between employer and employee,” he said.

Kganyago said he did not see how SABC employee disputes were matters of public interest.

The Sunday Independent reported that Raghunath was suspended in an apparent witch-hunt.

Television news head Amrit Manga reportedly suspected Raghunath of speaking to the media about problems in the news department.

SABC head of the Media Workers Association of South Africa (Mwasa) Themba Gasa told the newspaper that Raghunath was told to “go home and write a letter explaining why he should not be suspended.”

This happened after the Sunday Independent published an article detailing how the public broadcaster’s budget cuts negatively affected its newsroom.

Manga allegedly played favourites in the newsroom, given prime time slots to preferred newsreaders, paying some more than others and crushing criticism, the newspaper reported.

Kganyago denied this. “People want to make this a Mahendra versus Amrit issue. It is not,” he told Sapa.

He also denied that financial problems affected the newsroom.

There is nothing wrong with our news,” he said.

Meanwhile, Newsreaders Thembisa Marele and Isabelle de Taisser want to take the SABC to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) after they refused to sign contracts in December when their salaries were cut by 60%, the newspaper further reported.

Kganyago said SABC employees who did several jobs within the broadcaster were asked to give up some of their contracts during the budget cuts, which resulted in lower salaries.

“People earned extra in work time for which they were already paid. We told them you’ve got jobs. Let’s cut the additional work, which corresponds to no more overtime work allowed,” he said.

He however refused to say whether this applied to Marele and De Taisser directly, saying that internal and external processes, including the CCMA, would decide on disputes with employees.

Source: www.iol.co.za, 20100222

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