On Thursday afternoon, Simba approached the Labour Court in Braamfontein for an urgent interdict against workers, the Simunye Workers Forum and the Casual Workers Advice Office to stop them from “participating, instigating or promoting” an unprotected strike at its premises. It also wants the court to declare the strike unlawful.
According to Simunye Workers’ Forum representatives, 217 labour broker workers employed by Adcorp Blu were absorbed as permanent workers by Simba in 2018. “The workers had long ceased in law to be casual workers as they had, by that time, worked for several years for Simba,” according to Simunye.
Simunye said that part of the settlement agreement made at the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) was that workers would get free transport, paid for by Simba to and from pick-up points or at the employees’ homes.
“Workers later discovered that Simba was deducting R16 per day from each worker for the transport instead of providing it for free. These deductions were not even listed on the payslip.
“The workers have been in a long-standing battle to have this money returned and free transport reinstated,” Simunye said in a statement on Wednesday.
Worker representatives claim that other employees who became permanent before 2018 were not paying for transport, which had caused division and unhappiness.
More than 200 workers then decided to down tools this week after Simba had cancelled the transport and instead offered a once-off payment of R30 000 if they agreed to accept this as a full and final settlement as backpay and for any future transport costs. This offer was made in April during negotiations, according to Simunye.
While waiting for the CCMA to set a date to hear the matter, more than 200 workers at Simba’s Isando factory refused to work on Wednesday morning.
They held placards inside the gates of the premises, singing protest songs and asking to be allowed outside to protest on the streets. But the gates remained locked, forcing the workers to remain inside. The gates were only opened later that afternoon.
The Simunye Workers Forum and the Casual Workers Advice Office, which have been assisting the striking employees, have written to Simba, indicating their intention to oppose the interdict application.
Jacob Potlaki from the Casual Workers Advice Office said: “We refuse to take this [once-off offer of R30 000] because workers are owed up to R140 000 each for the deductions. We have tried to negotiate for a better amount than the R30 000 being offered without success. That is why we decided to down tools.”
“As we speak, workers are supposed to earn around R7 000, but they are earning about R5 000,” said Potlaki.
We managed to speak to a few striking workers through the gates of the Isando factory during their protest on Wednesday. One worker who has worked for Simba since 2012 said she wants the company to pay back all the money it has been deducting for transport.
“They deduct up to R2 000 from my salary every month. On top of that, they deduct money for uniforms and medical aid, which means that we are left with nothing. The company should own up to its promise of providing us with transport,” she said.
At the time of publication on Thursday afternoon, Simba’s urgent interdict application was still being heard at the Labour Court.
Simba did not respond to our calls and emailed questions.
© 2023 GroundUp. This article was first published here.