Members of unions affiliated to the South African Trade Unions won an historic victory after they joined their comrades in the Democratised Transport Logistical Transport and Allied Workers Union (DETAWU) in a sit-in at the premises of Imperial Cargo in Paarl.
This company had tried to intimidate and threaten its workers not to join a fully protected SAFTU-led strike and march on Thursday 12 April in the Western Cape, and then abruptly suspended 14 DETAWU members, without any charges, on the next day.
The march was against draconian labour bills which will make it impossible for workers to take strike action, and against the poverty national minimum wage of R20 an hour.
The protesters at the sit-in, led by SAFTU General Secretary, Zwelinzima Vavi, demanded that the suspensions be lifted immediately and that all threats to take disciplinary action against them be withdrawn.
When they arrived the company said‚ “We have received an opinion from our lawyers and they gave us the green light to suspend and to call these workers into a hearing”. Then they said: “We have asked for a second opinion and we are still waiting”.
So the protesters just read them Section 77 of the Labour Relations Act and showed them the certificate. Eventually the company agreed to unconditionally withdraw all the suspensions. Action speak louder the words!
The union members also demanded the immediate resignation of Mark Lamberti, the CEO of the parent company, Imperial Holdings. He has already resigned from the Eskom board and the chairpersonship of the Business Leadership South Africa, following a high court judgment found that he had demeaned the dignity of a senior manager of another of its companies, Adila Chilowan, by referring to her as a female employment equity candidate.
In the run-up to the general strike and countrywide marches on Wednesday 25 April – also against the labour law amendments and the poverty minimum wage – SAFTU will use this case at Imperial Cargo to get the message across to workers and to employers that a certificate issued by Nedlac under Section 77 of the Labour Relations Act protects all workers who join the strike, regardless of which union applied for the certificate.
It makes no difference which union they belong to or if they are not a member of any union. They are all covered by the certificate. Employers cannot be allowed to just willy-nilly to threaten or suspend workers.
SAFTU, its affiliates and allies on civil society are now hitting the streets all over South Africa to mobilise support for the strike and marches on 25 April.
This will bring the country to a standstill and show government and employers that the workers have reached the point where they have had enough of mass unemployment, grinding poverty and the widest inequality in the world. They are demanding No to poverty pay and No attacks on the constitutional right to strike!