Fired chefs fight on but struggle to survive


Chefs dismissed by Wits catering contractor Royal Mnandi Food Service Solutions have not been reinstated despite student marches and hunger strikes. The chefs have taken their case for arbitration, but they are struggling financially while awaiting the outcome. Photo: Tanyaradzwa Nyamajiyah

SIXTEEN of the 17 chefs dismissed by Royal Mnandi Food Service Solutions for “gross insubordination” earlier this year have not given up their fight to be reinstated.  But they are struggling to survive without a salary.

The Hospitality, Industrial, Catering, Retail and Allied Workers Union (Hicrawu) took the case to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) last month.

National organiser for Hicrawu, Martin Modise, said the matter was heard by the CCMA on August 27 but had to be postponed to October 8 because there were many witnesses who still needed to appear.

Modise said he hoped for a positive outcome.  “The first prize for us is to have the people get back to work.”

One of the 17, Michael Mali, is working in the main dining hall again. Modise said Mali’s case was separate from the other chefs, who were fired after refusing to be reassigned to different dining halls.

Mali said he was dismissed after telling his manager he could not go into the cold room because his tonsils were sore. He said the manager took this for insubordination. But Hicrawu negotiated with Royal Mnandi on his behalf and he was reinstated.

Mali said he was pleased to be back at work but was unhappy he had not received any back pay.

Modise said “When you negotiate you concede something and you get something,” adding that Mali got his job back but not the lost income.

Meanwhile, the other 16 former chefs are facing serious financial problems since losing their jobs.

Searching for answers

Christine Mkize, one of the dismissed chefs, described her difficulties in a telephone interview with Wits Vuvuzela

“I’m struggling. I’m struggling. I can’t afford to do anything. My children are at school. I have two kids and I am also looking after my late sister’s kids and my granddaughter. I don’t have money for transport for my son who is at college in Dobsonville. And my son in grade 10, I can’t give him money for lunch. Sometimes they give him lunch at school, but he is allergic to some of the things, like fish and spinach, so he can’t eat.

 “My husband has got prostate cancer. He goes in and out of hospital at Helen Joseph and he can’t work full time at the taxi rank. He’s not a taxi owner. He’s a driver. My sister gives me some money. She is a domestic worker. She is HIV positive and can’t afford to give me a lot. She gives me R200. My mother-in-law also gives me a little money so maybe we can eat. I can’t pay my rent.

“I am not sitting doing nothing. When I see posters I send my CV. I struggled to get money to go and look for a job, domestic jobs, catering jobs. They looked at my CV and said they would phone me, but they never phoned me. I am selling sweets, peanuts and tomatoes. I don’t have much stock because I don’t have money. I sometimes get R40 a day. At month-end I get R80 a day, but it’s only for three days.

 “I am struggling. I am not lying. Please, please, if you need someone to clean your house, don’t hesitate to call me, please.

“Even my colleagues are struggling. One came to me crying the other day. Her mother was sick. They get some piece jobs, washing two days or one day. But they are single parents and can’t afford to do anything for their kids. If maybe they had husbands who could help them.

 “I am suffering a lot. I don’t want to lie to anybody and say I am ok. The doctor says I have high blood pressure and maybe it’s because of stress.

“I ask myself why, why.  (She starts to cry). If maybe I was doing something wrong at my workplace I can say yes, but now I’m struggling to find answers. I worked so hard for the company, every day. (She breaks down). I’m sorry, I didn’t want to cry. I cry every day asking God to please help us. Not only me, all of us.

 “We are going back to the CCMA on 8 October. Maybe God will answer.”