The South African National Editors Forum has urged the South African Broadcasting Corporation and management of its newsrooms to mediate their way out of the financial storm brought about by the broadcaster's now-suspended plans to start retrenchment consultations.
After a marathon meeting on Thursday, the SABC board announced through a statement at midnight that it would suspend the section 189 retrenchment consultation processes for seven days while the public service broadcaster assessed its options.
The Broadcast, Electronic, Media and Allied Workers Union announced that it would approach the courts in a bid to interdict the SABC from proceeding with retrenchment consultations while the Communication Workers Union threatened strike action that could lead to a blackout on broadcast platforms.
The SANEF statement said there was not sufficient consultation on the proposed structure, syaing there were gaps in the structure presented that could impede operations directly linked to delivering on its public service responsibilities.
"SANEF has proposed a mediated process to both management and editors to try and resolve the impasse, as the instability in the news division at the public broadcaster threatens its ability to deliver on its expansive, but sadly unfunded public mandate," said the SANEF statement.
The SANEF statement conceded that the wage bill and structure of the SABC, as it currently stood, was unsustainable and needed to be addressed.
"A bloated, top-heavy structure is the unfortunate consequence of years of mismanagement, including the payment of above-inflation and irregular increases and bonuses. All parties agree that for the SABC to be saved, costs must be cut," the statement said.
Meanwhile, CWU spokesperson Aubrey Tshabalala told Fin24 on Friday morning that the decision by the SABC to suspend retrenchment consultations for a week did nothing to stop their strike plans.
"In so far as we are concerned, SABC has not formally spoken to us, nor did they respond to our demands which are very clear. We want the withdrawal of the dismissal letters. We want management to abandon the section 189 process," said Tshabalala.
Tshabalala said the CWU planned program of strike action would resume as planned from Friday. While Bemawu could not be reached immediately for comment, they have given no indication of an intention to retreat from their interdict bid.