First published by GroundUp
On Wednesday United National Transport Union (UNTU), joined by Federation of Unions of South Africa (Fedusa), lodged two disputes at the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) against the Gautrain’s operating company, Bombela, for alleged unfair labour practices.
This comes after the Gautrain employees represented by UNTU went on a two-week strike when wage negotiations between UNTU and Bombela deadlocked. The strike ended last week Monday when a wage agreement was signed.
The first dispute is about Bombela’s refusal to disclose its financial statements to the union during wage negotiations. The second is about Bombela allegedly locking certain employees out of the premises while granting access to others during the strike.
Sonja Carstens, Media Liaison for UNTU, told GroundUp that Bombela’s financial statements was a point of contention during negotiations. Despite signing the wage agreement without seeing Bombela’s financial statements, the union said it was determined to ensure transparency.
According to Section 16 (2) of the Labour Relations Act (LRA), an employer must disclose to a trade union representative all relevant information that will allow the trade union to engage effectively in collective bargaining.
It further states that if there is a dispute about disclosure of information between unions or employees and the employer, the matter should be referred to the CCMA, which will determine the risk of disclosing the information. If the CCMA decides that the disclosure of the information outweighs the potential risk, it can order the employer to disclose the information on terms which limit the harm to both employer and employee.
In a statement released by UNTU on Wednesday, General Secretary Steve Harris said the union was prepared to sign a non-disclosure agreement preventing it from making Bombela’s financial statements public but the company still refused.
“By refusing to disclose its financial statements, (Bombela) made it impossible for UNTU to properly engage in collective bargaining as the union has no idea what profits the company makes, what amount is being paid to the French Concessionaire or what bonuses management gets,” said Harris.
Harris said UNTU had to “negotiate blindly as the employer refused to be transparent”. He said this worsened the suspicion of the employees about what their employer was hiding.
Carstens said Bombela’s refusal to release its financial statements ultimately led to the first ever Gautrain strike.
But spokesperson for Bombela, Kesagee Nayager, said that UNTU only requested Bombela’s financial statements during the final round of mediated negotiations that took place on Friday 27 July, after the strike notice was already issued.
“This indicates that UNTU’s allegation that it embarked on strike action because the company refused to avail its financial statement is in fact untrue and merely a tactic to justify the reason for the strike, which ultimately was for an unrealistic and unreasonable demand,” Nayager told GroundUp.
Nayager said Bombela was a private company and “it had no obligation to make its financial statement public”. In a previous article, GroundUp asked why Bombela would not make its financial statements available to the union and not the public, but Nayager said Bombela could not comment further.
No dates have been set for the disputes to be heard. DM