A worker at BP in Braamfontein accuses management of sexual assault.

Employees at a BP garage in Braamfontein are accusing their employers of unfair treatment and unsafe working conditions after a petrol attendant was allegedly assaulted by the manager of the business.

Nompumelelo Kumalo told Wits Vuvuzela that she opened a case of assault against her manager, Ricardo Viera, on September 14, at the Hillbrow Police Station, after she was physically thrown out of the bathroom by Viera.

“He came into the bathroom while I was changing. He grabbed me forcefully and threw me out. He said he needed to pee. I asked him why he threw me out like a dog. He answered saying that he would fire me if I opened a case,” Kumalo said.

She said the incident happened on August 20. “My mind is not okay. I need counselling. I’m abused. I’m not okay,” the 30 year-old added.

Warrant officer Japhta Maringa from the South African Police Services confirmed that a case of sexual assault was opened at the Hillbrow station.

A number of Kumalo’s colleagues have now come forward with accusations of being underpaid, overworked, disrespected and working in unsafe conditions. They have turned to labour specialist and director of Gatsheni Labour Justice, Bongani Ndlovu, to mediate on their behalf.

Ndlovu confirmed that the workers had asked him to intervene in their dispute in early August.

“They requested we intervene in them being underpaid. They also said that their employer is employing foreigners but mistreating locals,” Ndlovu said.

“We sent an email to the owner who was very arrogant. We tried to set up a meeting but he kept on changing the appointments. We took the matter to the Bargaining Council in Randburg two weeks ago,” Ndlovu added.

Along with the alleged mistreatment, the workers told Wits Vuvuzela that since 2010 they were being paid for seven-and-a-half hours instead of eight.

“[Viera] takes 30 minutes off our 8-hour salary. Which means we are paying for our lunch (break)!” Kumalo said.

Another petrol attendant, Thalitha Mokhema, told Wits Vuvuzela that the random changes in their schedule by the manager were significantly inconvenient.

“There’s no transport for the night shift. I stay in Protea Glen. In that shift I make R220 and an Uber costs R390. He said he was happy to mark us absent. Now he’s given me a warning for being absent and has cut my working hours from 90 [hours] to 70 hours,” Mokhema said.

Mokhema told Wits Vuvuzela that the workers had been unsuccessful in addressing the issues with the manager and resorted to engaging the services of Ndlovu.

“When we speak to him, he oppresses us even more,” Mokhema said. “The petrol tanks here have been leaking since I got here six years ago. We could blow up any time,” the 54-year-old said.

Ndlovu told Wits Vuvuzela that the matter was with the Motor Industry Bargaining Council (MIBCO) and he expected that the management of the garage would be called to the MIBCO court.

Viera told Wits Vuvuzela that he was unable to comment as the garage was part of the BP group and the issues could be seen as placing the brand at fault.

“I cannot entertain you guys,” Viera said. “We’ve had the labour department check everything and they say that everything is in order. We’re above board,” he added.

FEATURED PHOTO: BP Braamfotein workers seek alternative methods to resolve issues with management.                                                Photo: Onke Ngcuka