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Load-shedding is affecting the whole of South Africa, and RMI members have been asking for clarification on their duties and responsibilities as employers.
To ensure that all of our members know exactly what is required from employers in the industry, please take note of the provisions of Clause 4.6 of Division A of the Consolidated Main Collective Agreement (published in Government Gazette No. 40771 of 07 April 2017), which provides that:
“(1) Subject to the provisions of sub-clause (3) of this clause and notwithstanding anything to the contrary in this Agreement, an employer may employ his employees on short-time:
Provided that –
(a) where such short-time is owing to slackness of trade and/or shortage of materials, if an employee is required not to attend the establishment on a particular day, the employer shall notify him of the fact not later than the day immediately preceding the day on which he is not required to work, and where the employee is expressly required by the employer to report at the establishment on any particular day for the purpose of ascertaining whether work will be available, he shall, if no work or if work of less than four hours’ duration is available, be paid not less than four hours’ in respect of such day;
(2) In the event of short-time being worked an employer shall not be required to pay wages to his employees except for the period actually worked or as otherwise expressly provided for in sub-clause (1) of this clause.
The first point of clarity pertains to what is intended by the phrase “slackness of trade and/or shortage of materials” in sub-clause 4.6(1)(a). Electricity is, similar to other materials of production, a means to an end within the production / business process and can therefore be considered as “material” similar to petroleum product, fast moving consumer goods and stationary. Load shedding, resulting in a disruption of electricity supply, would therefore result in a shortage of material within the production / business process which implies that a member would be able to invoke the provisions of clause 4.6 cited above.
The practical implication of this advent predicates the implementation of a “procedure” in terms of which short-time is implemented, which relates to the second point of clarity.
Members are required, in terms of sub-clause 4.6(1)(a), to “notify him [The employee(s)] of the fact not later than the day immediately preceding the day on which he is not required to work”. This provision enunciates the requirement for a “short-time notice”, which should ideally be in written form by way of a staff notice, memorandum or circular served on each of the affected employees. Short-time, however is not restricted in application to one-day-at-a-time only and may extend over a protracted period, necessitating the need for a short-time notice indicating this fact. An example of such a short-time notice is attached hereto for ease of reference.
Upon service of said short-time notice on the affected employees, normal business operations may continue until such time as an electricity supply disruption occurs in which case short-time is immediately invoked until such time as supply us normalised. Needless to say, the affected employees will not be paid for this period of short-time, resulting in part in a saving of operational costs to the member.
Whilst it is appreciated that short-time will have a negative impact on staff morale, it remains but an option, and not compulsion, open to members during periods of protracted power supply interruptions.