SACCAWU is concerned by the lack of coordination between Department of Employment and Labour, Department of Tourism and Department of Trade and Industries as well as Department of Police and SAPS and/or Cluster in Safety & Security including SANDF in this era. Such lack of coordination frequently results in some members of the Law Enforcement Agencies (Soldiers and Police) being drawn into industrial relations matters without them being equipped with required skills and expertise on dispute resolution mechanisms and industrial relations regime; and generally on the types of disputes prevalent in the employer-employee space. Whilst there are too many complaints lodged with the Union ranging from health risks to safety and security in the workplace, we are particularly troubled by alleged arrests of workers. The arrests arise from misleading statements and false accusations of workers laid to the Police by some members of management, with spiteful and malicious intent, manipulation of the law and the desire to see soldiers and police at times unduly harassing, intimidating, victimising and unleashing maximum force measures instead of established industrial regime. We wish to record that the Police and the Army has no place or role to play in industrial relations matters, be it disputes on processes and procedures or disagreements over the operational or administrative issues; hence their involvement is not only surprising but rather disturbingly suspicious. In saying that, we acknowledge and appreciate the many Police and Military Officers who are on the frontline and remain true to their mandate of enforcing the Disaster Management Act, the Coronavirus COVID-19 Regulations and Guidelines, as well as Lockdown Regulations whilst maintain neutrality in issues that are not within their ambit.
We are overwhelmingly inundated with and processing bulks of complaints but, we are now compelled to reprioritise and deal with more urgent cases like in the case of a Clicks incident on the afternoon of 20/04/2020 in East London store where two of our Members who work as Beauty Advisors were arrested by the Police for allegedly contravening the Lockdown Regulations. It is disturbing to note that the Store Manager allegedly reported to the Department of Employment & Labour office that those workers were not supposed to be in the store, as their department is not an essential service; based on which the Inspector subsequently called the Police who then arrested the workers, without question or proper assessment of the issue at hand. Had the Police bothered to assess the issue at hand before acting heavy-handedly and abusing their authority and powers, they would have established that the matter is purely an industrial relations matter which needed to be addressed as such by relevant parties, without the involvement of the Police. The matter was perpetuated by the Company having withdrawn the previously issued travel permits after unilaterally deciding that certain departments in the stores such as the High Tech and Beauty accessories are no longer essential as from the 18th April 2020 and then issued new permits. This unilateral declaration only occurs when the flow of customers is no longer at the massive/increased pace and/or dropped as at the declaration of National Lockdown that immensely upped the sales then. The Union was then alerted by the National Negotiating Team (NNT) Shopstewards about the incident. The Police apparently did not open a case as the issue was between the Employer and the Employees and ended up releasing the workers and transporting them home afterwards. The Union takes this wrongful arrest as Police interference and meddling in industrial relations matters without just cause. This is brutality and abuse and is unacceptable in a Constitutional democracy.
With regard to safe and reliable Transport service; is another area of violation at the point of practical application, in instances where COVID-19 Rules and Regulations as they currently dictate restricted operational times for public transport service providers are inherently in contradiction with company schedule of shifts.
· For example, a worker scheduled to start work at 11h00 should leave home before 09h00 even if s/he travels 30 minutes to work and a worker knocking off at around 14h00 cannot get transport home until 16h00. It is such cases, which compel workers to be in or out of the workplace at times that are not well-matched to the dictates/prescripts of COVID-19 rules and regulations on transport operations and movement.
· For instance a worker’s shift might start in the early hours which are well covered by the COVID-19 rules and regulations as they by design are between 5am till 10am, whilst knock-off times he/she may be ending a shift at about 14h00, then having to wait for hours as per COVID-19 rules and regulations that which allows transport movement only after 16h00 till 21h00.
The incompatibility of transport and shift/flexible work of essential service retailers also put the lives and safety of workers at risk, specifically women workers. The lack of gender sensitivity opens women workers to gender-based violence, and as such companies are contributing to the increased levels of gender violence. This needs to be harmonized by authorities who are mandated to monitor and assess the full compliance to the COVID-19 rules and regulations.
Issued by SACCAWU Media Unit
Mike Michael Bonile Sikani & Lucas Ramatlhodi
0823368296 082 336 5325