South Africa
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Labour Court was ‘fed lies,’ says Saccawu as the union plans to seek an appeal

THE South African Commercial, Catering and Allied Workers Union (Saccawu) is seeking to appeal the Labour Court’s decision to dismiss its application that the re-organisation process of Massmart was unfair.

The damning court ruling found the union failed to act in the best interests of its members to avoid their dismissal at Massmart’s Game stores.

This week, Saccawu said it disagreed with the judgment from which inferences were drawn to justify the offensive against the victimised workers.

Saccawu head of research and media, Sithembele Tshwete said the union was filing a petition for leave to appeal in the Labour Appeal Court.

“These workers, who are made sacrificial lambs, are at the receiving end of a unilateral wholesale restructuring stemming from gross mismanagement and knee-jerk ambitions by this company,” said Tshwete.

Tshwete said the Labour Court judge Graham Moshoana was bombarded with lies, to the effect that the union abandoned the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) consultation process.

“There was a foregone conclusion, even before consultations, that they needed to retrench workers for their own profit interest, and not caring about the job security and well-being of hundreds of workers and their families who will suffer immensely due to this act,” he said.

Massmart embarked on the reorganisation of Game stores in January last year in a bid to return the business to profitability.

The move led to retrenchments. Tshwete said that at the heart of that was the new store model at Game, which proposed that working hours be reduced from 45 to 40 a week.

Tshwete said that in the model, Sundays would be treated as normal working days and not be remunerated more than weekdays as stipulated under the Basic Conditions of Employment Act.

Tshwete said the company elected not to include the reduction of hours in the written notice as required under Section 189(3) of the Labour Relations Act.

“This is a conduct viewed suspiciously by the union and depicts bad faith engagement on the part of the company whose aim is just to dismiss workers without even considering alternatives or benefits they are entitled to,” he said.

Commenting on the plans by the union to appeal the court ruling, Brian Leroni, the Massmart spokesperson, said the company was confident that the ruling would be upheld on appeal.

Leroni said that specifically, Saccawu had advised employees affected by the Game reorganisation process to not apply for reasonable alternative positions from the around 1 200 vacancies that were, and remain, available within the Massmart Group.

Leroni said the company had tried to assist Saccawu to escape its predicament, by communicating that it was prepared to re-employ previously retrenched employees in the 1 200 vacant positions that were still available.

“Saccawu has, however, been unresponsive to this offer which was most recently made during a CCMA facilitation process held in September this year,” Leroni said.

He said the unwillingness of employees to take-up reasonable alternative vacancies was treated as a resignation rather than as a retrenchment, citing it was a well-established legal principle that included the understanding that, under those circumstances, retrenchment packages were not paid to the affected employees.

Earlier this month, retrenched Game employees complained about delays in the payment of retrenchment packages.

Leroni said Massmart was fully sympathetic to the fact that Saccawu found it was in a difficult position, having provided its membership with bad advice that had resulted in avoidable retrenchments.

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