Some com­pa­nies bring ex­pen­sive lawyers to ne­go­ti­ate very un­favourable con­tracts with un­rep­re­sented work­ers

CityPress - - Business & Tenders -

Com­peti­tor Clicks is also fac­ing a deem­ing case in­volv­ing 500 work­ers at its own dis­tri­bu­tion cen­tre.

At many com­pa­nies, deem­ing is al­most im­me­di­ately fol­lowed by re­trench­ments.

● At Simba, which is a sub­sidiary of multi­na­tional food and drink group Pep­siCo, labour bro­ker work­ers set­tled a deem­ing dis­pute with the com­pany on June 28. The next day, the com­pany is­sued re­trench­ment no­tices to 142 of the 350 work­ers em­ployed as pack­ers as its fac­tory in Isando.

A con­fi­den­tial re­trench­ment deal was sub­se­quently reached.

The big­ger prob­lem at Simba was that the com­pany spent al­most a year de­lay­ing the Com­mis­sion for Con­cil­i­a­tion, Me­di­a­tion and Ar­bi­tra­tion (CCMA) case to deem its Isando work­ers, said Ramji.

In that time, the com­pany al­legedly shifted many of the labour bro­ker work­ers out of their roles op­er­at­ing ma­chines and into the low­est­paid job at the fac­tory: pack­ers. They then got deemed into this lower pay grade.

Pep­siCo has not re­sponded to City Press’ queries.

● At break­fast ce­real gi­ant Kel­logg’s’ fac­tory in Springs, work­ers were deemed and equalised on favourable terms, but the com­pany im­me­di­ately is­sued re­trench­ment no­tices for more than half of the 116 work­ers in­volved. The work­ers, rep­re­sented by the Ca­sual Work­ers Ad­vice Of­fice, have promised to chal­lenge th­ese as un­fair.

● At Bak­ers Bis­cuits, a sub­sidiary of JSE-listed AVI, the labour bro­ker Trans­man gave 150 work­ers con­tracts to sign in Au­gust, which would keeps them em­ployed by Trans­man de­spite the deem­ing pro­vi­sion. This was while work­ers at the bis­cuit-maker had suc­cess­fully lodged a CCMA case to be deemed and the com­pany was taking it on re­view at the labour court. As of this week, the mat­ter is in­stead go­ing to ar­bi­tra­tion.

The po­ten­tial gains for labour bro­ker work­ers seek­ing to be deemed are enor­mous. At JSE-listed Lib­star, about 1 000 work­ers were deemed and saw their pay im­prove by about 30% as they re­ceived ben­e­fits for the first time. This is roughly the nor­mal pay gap for bro­kered work­ers, ac­cord­ing to re­cent re­search based on tax records pre­sented at the an­nual African Re­view of Economics and Fi­nance con­fer­ence this year.

At Simba, the ad­di­tion of ben­e­fits af­ter deem­ing added 47% to work­ers’ pay. In some work­places, the con­flu­ence of deem­ing and the na­tional min­i­mum wage would re­sult in dra­matic in­creases un­less work­ers get put on shorter hours or are re­trenched.

● Mr Sweet, the man­u­fac­turer of many pop­u­lar low­cost con­fec­tionary brands, is in the mid­dle of a deem­ing and equal­i­sa­tion dis­pute in­volv­ing 222 work­ers.

Work­ers supplied to it by the JSE-listed Work­force Group have been earn­ing far less than the new na­tional min­i­mum wage of R20 an hour. City Press has seen a payslip for one Mr Sweet worker cit­ing hourly pay of R12.70, or R527.47 a week.

This com­pany will not only have to deem work­ers, it will sooner or later have to ap­ply the min­i­mum wage.

With hind­sight, it is clear the labour law amend­ments that cre­ated the deem­ing pro­vi­sion should also have in­cluded some form of safe­guard against in­stant re­trench­ment, said Ramji. For in­stance, she sug­gested a mora­to­rium on re­trench­ing the deemed work­ers for a few months.

An­other hole in the labour laws is the is­sue of hours worked. The Ba­sic Con­di­tions of Em­ploy­ment Act sets out max­i­mum hours a worker may be made to work in a week. It does not set a min­i­mum, which tech­ni­cally al­lows em­ploy­ers to semi-re­trench work­ers by sim­ply giv­ing an em­ployee no hours to work.

Many of th­ese cases in­volve JSE-listed Ad­corp, the largest labour bro­ker in South Africa.

The deem­ing pro­vi­sion had a dra­matic im­pact on the num­ber of work­ers placed by Ad­corp when it ini­tially came into ef­fect in 2015. Ac­cord­ing to the com­pany’s an­nual re­ports, it had 101 113 tem­po­rary work­ers placed in South Africa in the be­gin­ning of 2015.

By March, this was 74 070 – be­fore a num­ber of deem­ing cases in­volv­ing hun­dreds of Ad­corp work­ers.

Much of that dam­age was al­ready done in 2015, but Ad­corp and other labour bro­kers now face a new wave of deem­ing cases due to the Con­sti­tu­tional Court’s rul­ing in July on how the deem­ing pro­vi­sion ac­tu­ally works. Many cases had been sus­pended in an­tic­i­pa­tion of that rul­ing.

Ad­corp spokesper­son Nomonde Xulu said that it could not share in­for­ma­tion on its re­cent loss of work­ers due to deem­ing as the com­pany was listed and the in­for­ma­tion was “share price sen­si­tive”.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.