The South African Federation of Trade Unions is delighted to announce an important victory for group of 280 workers who have been fighting courageously for 23 years for justice for themselves and their families, after being sacked in 1994 by what was then the Midrand Municipal Council. It is also a victory for all workers, as it has set an important precedent.
More than 500 municipal workers went on strike in 1994 in protest against corruption and nepotism within the council. They were dismissed, and left penniless, and none of them has received any of their pension entitlement ever since.
But they have never given up and have continued to meet every Sunday, supported one another, and fought for a settlement with Johannesburg City Council to absorb then into the municipality, and to investigate their pension entitlements and the corruption allegations.
Finally, on 13 September 2017 they made an historic breakthrough. At a meeting between the workers and the mayor of Johannesburg, Herman Mashaba, and his team, he announced that the council will re-employ the remaining 280 workers within six months.
It was also agreed that workers who are aged and the families of those deceased will have the right to nominate a replacement on condition that only 280 positions are filled.
It was also agreed that the city will work with the Financial Services Board to investigate what happened to these workers’ pension funds.
The city will also investigate allegations of corruption against an individual who shall remain nameless, and should the allegations made by the workers be proven correct the council will help with resources for the workers to take legal action to recover what is theirs.
These workers are setting a precedent and a fine example for all those workers who have been unfairly retrenched. They have proved that resistance is not futile, and that victory is still possible, however great the hardships they and their families have suffered, the loss of some of their comrades and the repeated refusal of previous council leaders to take up their case.
It will give new heart to other workers who have lost their jobs but are still fighting for reinstatement These include:
1. The 91 of the 208 workers in the Northern Cape who were dismissed by Kumba Iron Ore after a strike in 2012. Kumba, a part of the giant Anglo-American monolith, dismissed the workers for “participating in an unprotected strike”.
For the next five years these 91 workers have never stopped fighting for their jobs, and despite losing a case at the Labour Court on 30 June 2017 the workers are not giving up and are preparing their arguments for an appeal to the Labour Appeal Court.
2. The 380 workers sacked in 2015 by Umbhaba Banana Estates farm in Mpumalanga, after they want on strike in support of the right to join the union of their choice, FAWU. They were charged on spurious allegations of intimidation, arson, violence, and similar such charges and FAWU is still fighting through the CCMA for their reinstatement.
It is so brilliant to see that the Midrand workers have succeeded against shocking odds. They can be very proud of themselves! SAFTU is determined to ensure that the Midrand workers’ victory is fully implemented and that it will not be be a one-off success but be used to encourage all other workers who face similar challenges!