South Africa

LABOUR DISPUTE

Time running out for unions to decide on Putco’s proposal on fired bus strike staff

Time running out for unions to decide on Putco’s proposal on fired bus strike staff
The entrance of Putcoville Bus Depot in Dobsonville was barricaded with tyres and bricks by striking Putco bus drivers on 6 September 2022. (Photo: Gallo Images / Fani Mahuntsi)

The Putco bus company has given unions a deadline of midnight Wednesday to accept a management proposal in the wake of an illegal strike.

Putco’s proposal relates to the re-evaluation of internal disciplinary measures against fired employees who engaged in a violent unprotected strike in early September.

If accepted by the South African Road Passenger Bargaining Council (SARPBC) and the CCMA, the proposed re-evaluation will see the reinstatement of employees who were dismissed for misconduct during the strike, and then immediately placed on suspension pending the outcome of disciplinary proceedings.

unions putco

The strike, which turned violent, especially at Putco’s Soweto, Dobsonville and Zandfontein depots, lasted for 13 days and affected 150,000 passengers. Workers were demanding a pay increase and backdated bonus pay. (Photo: Gallo Images / Papi Morake)

Putco spokesperson Lindokuhle Xulu says five trade unions are involved in the negotiations — the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union, Numsa, the Transport and Allied Workers Union, the Tirisano Workers Union and the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union.

Putco proposed to the trade unions that the internal appeal hearings for the employees dismissed during the recent unprotected strike be replaced with Section 188A disciplinary hearings under the auspices of independent commissioners of the SARPBC.

“We are hoping for direction in terms of the process and what will be required from us should the SARPBC and the CCMA grant us this request. If there are any monetary requirements, we will then need to respond to that,” Xulu told Daily Maverick on Tuesday.

The bus company said the appeal hearings due for re-evaluation were part of the Section 150 settlement agreement signed with unions after the strike.

“The proposal, if accepted, will also see those employees who were dismissed for misconduct during the strike, reinstated and immediately placed on suspension pending the outcome of the Section 188A disciplinary hearings,” the company said.

According to Putco, initially about 400 workers had made representations and another 500 were assisted by unions, leaving 105 employees who were eventually axed.

On Monday, Putco said the number of dismissed individuals had been reduced from 105 to 86. However, the company said 53 additional employees would be suspended and charged with misconduct, putting the number facing disciplinary hearings at 139.

Impact

The strike, which turned violent, especially at Putco’s Soweto, Dobsonville and Zandfontein depots, lasted for 13 days and affected 150,000 passengers. Workers were demanding a pay increase and backdated bonus pay.

Putco also lost revenue, which Xulu said had not yet been evaluated.

“We unfortunately haven’t had a tally of how much we’ve lost in value, as we’ve been inundated with issues of these dismissals.”

“Putco has proposed that the disciplinary hearings for all the 139 employees be expedited to ensure fairness for all those affected,” the bus company said.

Putco said in making the proposal to review the internal disciplinary measures, management reflected on the proposal by Gauteng MEC for Roads and Transport, Jacob Mamabolo, who, at a meeting with Putco executives, appealed for alternative dispute resolution mechanisms to avert massive job losses.


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“Putco has requested all unions to indicate their acceptance of the Section 188A proposal by no later than Wednesday, 28 September 2022. We call on all parties involved to work together to ensure the speedy resolution of the matter,” Putco said.

Daily Maverick approached the unions, but received a reply only from Numsa’s Phakamile Hlubi, who said the union would not comment on the proposal at this stage. 

“We are currently consulting our members on this and we will communicate their decision likely later this week.”

Hlubi added: “The executives refused to pay workers the increase and bonuses due to them… The SARPBC dismissed their application for exemption twice, because they gave the executive managers a 7% increase and they paid one of the shareholders R60-million.”

She said the cost of the increase, by comparison, would have been R38-million. DM

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