Workers at the Junction convenient store, e-Pitstop, feel like they have been kept in the dark about their possible retrenchment
Wits Junction catering workers facing retrenchment, are accusing a Wits catering company and the university of not giving reasons for why they may lose their jobs.
Eight workers received notices warning of retrenchment from catering company Royal Mnandi on April 6. Most of the workers have been sitting at home since February when e-Pitstop, a shop at Junction, was closed without warning.
Royal Mnandi contacted them on April 6, 2016 and gave them letters of contemplated dismissals. The letters stipulate that Royal Mnandi is thinking of a possible retrenchment based on operational requirements.
In February, the Junction workers protested, saying they were being excluded from insourcing agreements with the university. E-Pitstop was closed on the day of the protest and has not been re-opened since.
“All we wanted was an explanation from our manager but she refused to address the workers’ concerns and that’s why there was a protest,” said Fikile Dube, an e-Pitstop worker.
The workers accuse Royal Mnandi of retrenching them as a result of the protest. They are also complaining about Wits and Royal Mnandi not explaining the retrenchments. Vusumuzi Masondo, a representative for the workers, said that none of the meetings he had with the university and Royal Mnandi have been fruitful.
Wits Vuvuzela tried speaking to Analene Coetzer, Royal Mnandi manager at Wits, but was referred to the company’s head offices in Pretoria where CEO Rob White declined to give a comment.
Labour lawyer and Wits associate lecturer, Thulani Nkosi, said that while any business has the right to give notice for retrenchments they also need to have meetings with workers before they decide to retrench any staff members.
Nkosi said that the employer cannot retrench any workers without proper discussions and feedback. He also said that all workers need to be given notices well in advance.
“Workers are well within their rights to challenge the company on the basis of the date [of the retrenchment notice] and the meetings,” Nkosi said.
The workers say they were not consulted before being told that they might get retrenched. They say the situation has caused them undue stress.
“Being at home and not even knowing whether I’ll go back to work or not has driven me into depression, these people are playing with our lives,” said Royal Mnandi worker Tabea Chauke, a widow and mother of two.
Wits Vuvuzela, Junction workers protest over unequal raise, February 16, 2016
Wits Vuvuzela, Workers locked in Wits office following pay protest, March 6, 2015