On 31 March 2021, SABC retrenched employees using the Section 189 retrenchment process.
South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) employees were retrenched on 31 March 2021. Whilst the full list of affected workers was not released 346 employees opted for severance packages and the other 275 made redundant. The total number of employees retrenched amounted to 621.
In a notice to staff on 30 March 2021, the public broadcaster said that it had concluded its section 189 retrenchment process and will transition to a new structure on the 1st of April 2021. SABC said the job cuts were necessary to ensure its financial sustainability. Labour unions said the retrenchment would compromise the quality of the broadcaster’s content and that the staff that remains would have an increased workload.
Employees who were retrenched lamented the SABC’s handling of the retrenchments. One of the affected employees said:
“There didn’t seem to be any fairness or transparency out of the whole process. One has given 16 years of their life working for an organisation and I have given everything but it feels like it means nothing. I have been part of the SABC service for the past 32 years and it saddens me that we have to leave like this. It’s really unfortunate that we as experienced crew of the SABC had to be taken out at a time when they really do need the experience. As a result of [these retrenchments] being unexpected, we have not made plans as to what we are doing afterward.”
The SABC started issuing redundancy notices to staff in June 2020, prompting resistance from union members who challenged the process in court and threatened to strike. Some 275 workers who were made redundant were unable to secure alternative job opportunities within the company after they were invited to apply for positions.
The number of people to be laid off had been changing as talks to find alternatives to retrenchments went on. It was announced early in January 2021 that a total of 303 people would lose their jobs, down from the initial figure of 400. The departments of labour and communications attempted to resolve the impasse between the SABC board and the unions over the restructuring. The Communication Workers' Union (CWU) said they were of the view that the process was "grossly unfair" and lacked transparency, with general secretary Aubrey Tshabalala blaming the SABC for ignoring Parliament's recommendation of finding alternative solutions to retrenchment. 
Reasons Behind Retrenchment
The main reason behind the retrenchment process was to reduce the SABC's wage bill and save R700 million per year in staffing costs. Unions largely blamed the wage bill problems on the bloated and high-earning management structure.
A breakdown of salary costs, contained in its annual report, revealed that on average, its eight top executives earned more than President Cyril Ramaphosa, who at the time the report was compiled earned R3.1 million a year. It showed that top executives earned, on average, R3.9 million per year with their annual wage bill coming in at over R31 million.
Senior management members earned on average R2.14 million a year, with their total management for the 27 employees at this level coming in at over R58 million per year. Meanwhile, middle management earned, on average, R1.2 million a year for 374 employees. Their wage bill came in at nearly R462 million per year.
There were calls for SABC to find alternative funding models, in a bid to improve its dwindling revenue streams.
- Sibongile Khumalo, Over 600 SABC employees lose jobs in a 'difficult and emotionally charged' restructuring process, Fin24, Published: March 30, 2021, Retrieved: March 31, 2021
- Prabashini Moodley, Last day at work for over 600 retrenched SABC employees, SABC News, Published: March 31, 2021, Retrieved: March 31, 2021