Re­in­stated regis­trar of labour guns for Cep­p­wawu

CityPress - - Business - DEWALD VAN RENS­BURG dewald.vrens­burg@city­press.co.za

The cold war in the de­part­ment of labour, be­tween Min­is­ter Mil­dred Oliphant and re­cently re­in­stated labour regis­trar Jo­han Crouse, has re­sumed.

The min­is­ter’s of­fice told City Press that “un­for­tu­nately, the courts have given an in­ter­pre­ta­tion of a per­son [the regis­trar] who is not ac­count­able to any­one”. This fol­lows Crouse’s vic­tory in the Labour Ap­peal Court last month, re­vers­ing Oliphant’s de­ci­sion to re­move him as regis­trar in 2015. The regis­trar ad­min­is­ters the coun­try’s unions and has the power to dereg­is­ter one or place it un­der ad­min­is­tra­tion if it is not op­er­at­ing in line with its own con­sti­tu­tion.

The bat­tle re­volves around the Chem­i­cal, En­ergy, Pa­per, Print­ing, Wood and Al­lied Work­ers’ Union (Cep­p­wawu) and its R6 bil­lion in­vest­ment fund. In 2015, Crouse went to court to place Cep­p­wawu un­der ad­min­is­tra­tion, which led to his removal for al­leged “gross in­sub­or­di­na­tion” af­ter Oliphant or­dered him to de­sist.

Now that he is back in his old po­si­tion, Crouse is look­ing into Cep­p­wawu again. “I have writ­ten to Cep­p­wawu to say I am pur­su­ing the ap­pli­ca­tion to place them un­der ad­min­is­tra­tion on an ex­pe­dited ba­sis,” Crouse told City Press this week. In Crouse’s ab­sence, the ap­pli­ca­tion to put the union un­der ad­min­is­tra­tion was with­drawn. He told City Press he did not know on what ba­sis this hap­pened, be­cause Cep­p­wawu was “cer­tainly not” in good stand­ing. Last month Oliphant told the DA, in re­sponse to par­lia­men­tary ques­tions, that the union had fi­nally tabled its over­due fi­nan­cial state­ments and that these were ac­cepted by the act­ing regis­trar of labour.

“That can­not be, be­cause they did not com­ply with their con­sti­tu­tional re­quire­ments. The fi­nan­cials were not ac­cepted,” said Crouse.

The min­is­ter’s spokesper­son, Sithem­bele Tsh­wete, told City Press that it was “con­fus­ing and un­rea­son­able to ex­pect the min­is­ter to com­ment on these ques­tions”. This is be­cause the regis­trar is in­de­pen­dent and Oliphant had no role in what­ever de­ci­sions the act­ing regis­trar took in Crouse’s ab­sence, he said.

Oliphant’s an­swers to the DA were sim­ply a re­lay­ing of what the act­ing regis­trar had de­cided and “nei­ther she nor Par­lia­ment has author­ity to ques­tion the de­ci­sion of the regis­trar”.

Oliphant is “not in a po­si­tion to pro­vide rea­sons for the with­drawal of the ad­min­is­tra­tion ap­pli­ca­tion”. It seems to be “a dif­fer­ence of opin­ions and ap­proach of the two reg­is­trars”, he noted.

Tsh­wete also said that Crouse was be­ing un­rea­son­able by declar­ing his tem­po­rary re­place­ment’s ac­tions as in­cor­rect. “Then again, we are talk­ing about an ag­grieved per­son who has per­son­alised and pri­ori­tised the Cep­p­wawu mat­ter over and above other mat­ters of a sim­i­lar na­ture.”

Crouse jus­ti­fied his dogged pur­suit of Cep­p­wawu due to the po­ten­tial harm the union’s gov­er­nance col­lapse could cause. “The union has a large mem­ber­ship and lots of money,” he said.

At last count it had 66 000 mem­bers and its in­vest­ment com­pany had as­sets of over R6 bil­lion.

The union’s most re­cent fi­nan­cials, which Crouse says are non­com­pli­ant, ap­par­ently do not even men­tion the in­vest­ment as­sets.

The union’s lead­er­ship is split into fac­tions that have been en­gaged in sev­eral le­gal bat­tles. On one side are gen­eral sec­re­tary Si­mon Mo­fo­keng and union pres­i­dent Tham­sanqa Mh­longo, and on the other are deputy gen­eral sec­re­tary Sa­muel Chief Seatl­holo and trea­surer Thu­la­sizwe Sibande.

Crouse is set to re­tire late this year, so the Cep­p­wawu mat­ter could drag on un­til he is gone.

WHAT’S WRONG?

The pub­lic au­dit re­port ac­com­pa­ny­ing Cep­p­wawu’s lat­est fi­nan­cials was ob­vi­ously non­com­pli­ant, said Crouse. The au­di­tors raised an “em­pha­sis of mat­ter” that, in 2013, Cep­p­wawu in­curred a loss of R9.2 mil­lion. Its ac­cu­mu­lated loss amounted to R24.3 mil­lion.

There was an “un­law­ful act or omis­sion com­mit­ted by a per­son re­spon­si­ble for the man­age­ment of Cep­p­wawu that con­sti­tutes a re­portable ir­reg­u­lar­ity”, the au­dit re­port said.

The union used agency fees paid by non­mem­bers in work­places where a union is dom­i­nant for its own op­er­a­tional re­quire­ments – a breach of the Labour Re­la­tions Act. Agency fees are meant to be kept in a sep­a­rate ac­count and only used for ad­vanc­ing the in­ter­ests of those work­ers.

The courts have given an in­ter­pre­ta­tion of a per­son [the regis­trar] who is not ac­count­able to any­one

MIL­DRED OLIPHANT

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