NUMSA protests in support of suspended Putco workers

Putco concerned by how long CCMA process is taking

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Photo of man signing memo

From left to right Phakamile Hlubi-Majola (NUMSA spokesperson) and Jack Sekwaila (Putco operations executive), Thys Heyns (corporate director) and Lindokuhle Xulu (spokesperson). Heyns is signing a memorandum handed over by NUMSA. Photo: Jabulile Mbatha

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) has threatened to go to the Labour Court in support of 120 employees suspended by Putco.

The workers were charged with gross misconduct after a strike over pay in 2022, according to Putco spokesperson Lindokuhle Xulu.

Xulu said the workers had intimidated other employees “by going into their offices and workspaces and removing them and forcing them to join the strike”.

“We have footage of that,” he said.

The workers are also charged with “breaching the media policy” because “only the spokesperson is at liberty to speak on behalf of Putco or about Putco.”

The matter is being heard in the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA).

On Tuesday, NUMSA members marched to Putco headquarters in Linbro Business Park, Sandton.

The suspended workers complain that during the hearings they have to report to Putco depots in Nancefield (Soweto) and Zandfontein (Tshwane).

Xulu said this is because some had started working elsewhere, in breach of their contracts, and others had not been reporting to the CCMA, delaying the process. He said only 25 people have so far been heard at the CCMA.

One Soweto bus driver, who asked to remain anonymous, said it’s like being in a prison. There are bathrooms, but they are only allowed to use mobile toilets and a water tank.

“We sign in, sit at the depot [all day], play dice, eat and sleep, and repeat. There is nothing we can do there,” he said.

NUMSA and Putco also disagree about the length of time the hearings should take.

NUMSA said Putco wanted to stop paying the suspended employees if the hearings were not concluded by 5 April.

“Should the company find this arrangement financially burdensome, it has the freedom to lift the suspensions and utilise the services of workers productively, pending the finalisation of the CCMA arbitration process,” according to a NUMSA statement after the parties failed to reach agreement on Tuesday.

If Putco did not meet NUMSA’s demands, including lifting the requirement that the suspended workers report to the depots, the union will head to the Labour Court.

In a statement titled “Unsuccessful negotiations between Putco and NUMSA”, Putco said both parties had agreed that the CCMA hearings should be finalised “expeditiously”.

Putco said it was concerned by the the “prolonged CCMA inquiry process, which both parties had agreed would be undertaken expeditiously”.

“Putco is of the view that NUMSA’s suggestion that the hearings be concluded by November 2024 is unreasonable.”

“This would be more than two years since the process started and would go against the union’s commitment in the Section 150 agreement to finalise the matter speedily. Putco believes that two months is sufficient time to finalise these proceedings.”

Correction on 2024-02-29 12:30

The original article used the wrong gender for Lindokuhle Xulu.

TOPICS:  Labour

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