PHOLA Coaches workers who claim they have been unfairly dismissed are calling for their reinstatement as well as to be included in Wits’ insourcing plan.
Phola Coaches is a bus company based in Mpumalanga and contracted by Wits to manage transport for staff, students and workers.
Former bus drivers, Stephen Machile, Simion Tshipuke and supervisor Sam Mogoba told Wits Vuvuzela that they were unfairly dismissed by Phola Coaches depot manager Cornelius Simethi and human resources manager Calvin Mokoto.
Machile, who has been working for Phola Coaches for three years, said he was accused of arriving to work drunk.
“At six o’clock [am] when I blew into that thing, it said I was drunk, the supervisor told me to step outside and I did so. After 20 minutes when he called me back to blow into the breathalyser¸ it was okay. I blew four times.”
Machile added that, upon management insisting he was drunk, he requested Phola Coaches to have his blood tested at a lab but the manager refused. Speaking in Sesotho he said, “I took myself to Lancet and they drew my blood for testing, I spoke to the manager Cornelius that morning and asked him, ‘may we please go and have my blood tested?’ he refused. My results came back clean but they still dismissed me.”
“We went to a disciplinary hearing, I gave them my proof that comes from Lancet but it was rejected,” said Machile.
Mogoba, who was a supervisor, said he was dismissed for running late on the bus schedules. “When I was fired, they said it was because of misconduct because I had caused a driver to be late.
“The hearing was postponed and I was not given a date. I was informed on the day of the hearing.”
Mogoba said he asked for time to find somebody to represent him. “They told me ‘you’re there or not, it [the hearing] will continue’.”
Tshipuke, another bus driver who says he was dismissed unfairly, told Wits Vuvuzela that he was dismissed for acquiring a speeding fine.
Kgomotso Kasonkola, human resources officer at Wits, said that the dismissed workers would be insourced only if they referred and won their case with the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA). Last week Wits confirmed Phola Coaches workers will be part of insourcing from October 1.
“The normal procedure must be followed. If the workers have referred their case to the CCMA, we will be directed by the outcome of the CCMA. It will be like a court order on us,” Kasonkola said.
Sam Mangena, National Health Education & Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) chairperson told Wits Vuvuzela that Phola Coaches could not provide evidence of the workers’ misconduct or provide the policy used to dismiss them.
“These workers were exploited by Phola Coaches. Their management were very arrogant; they said they won’t recognise us as a union. There was no policy attached to the so-called dismissals. They demonstrated unfair labour practices,” said Mangena.
He added that they had referred the matter to the CCMA. “We took the matter to the CCMA. The first hearing was supposed to have sat already, but Phola Coaches didn’t come,” he said.
“They never pitched for Stephen Machile’s case at CCMA. It’s victimisation in its core,” Mangena said.
Simethi denied that the workers had been unfairly dismissed but would not answer Wits Vuvuzela’s questions to him.
Mokoto would not comment on the matter either, saying, “I’m not allowed to discuss any internal matters with anyone from outside. The drivers, they are well aware of their rights. I can’t comment any further,” he said.
Wits Vuvuzela, Insourcing of Phola Coaches workers is full steam ahead, September 22, 2017.
Wits Vuvuzela, Wits bus drivers back at work following threats to their jobs, April 13, 2017.