Acsa, union in dogfight

2008-11-23 13:37

Johannesburg - The Airports Company of SA (Acsa) is under fire for apparently flouting labour laws and its own policies by suspending 46 security personnel without pay.

In the group hearing which the 46 workers were subjected to last month, they were all punished for ignoring a meeting called by Acsa chief executive Monhla Hlahla earlier this year.

The 46 workers were initially suspended with six colleagues who serve as shop stewards for the National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu). The shop stewards face individual hearings.

A Nehawu official said the 46 workers were each forced to sign a document after the hearing. It suggests that they "freely and voluntarily agreed to take unpaid leave as an appropriate sanction to a disciplinary infraction".

By signing the document each worker "cannot refer the case to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) in terms of the provision of the Labour Relations Act". The one-page document says that "in the event you do not agree to this sanction, a sanction of dismissal will be endorsed".

Signing the document also meant that the workers agree that "the offence(s) I have been found guilty of warrant(s) dismissal"; "no subordinate legislation prohibits the use of unpaid leave as a disciplinary measure" and "there are furthermore no other statutory or contractual prohibitions against the use of unpaid leave as a disciplinary measure".

Nehawu spokesperson Sizwe Pamla said the case was a charade and the hearing a farce and a fishing expedition that brought trumped up charges in order to deunionise Acsa.

"The Acsa disciplinary hearing continued even though union representation for the workers was refused," he said.

Pamla said the workers were suspended verbally and only given charge sheets later. This was corroborated by one of the suspended workers, who asked to remain anonymous. The worker also said their disciplinary records were not taken into account.

The ruling handed each worker a 12-month final warning and two months suspension without pay.

During their two-month enforced lay-off, the 46 workers "are not allowed to engage in work which would assist them in getting remuneration elsewhere".

Pamla said Acsa flouted labour laws and compromised the security of the continent's biggest and busiest airport. Nehawu is appealing the way the hearing was constituted and the refusal of union representation at the CCMA.

Acsa communications manager Nothemba Noruwana contradicted the document. "Disciplinary processes are conducted in accordance with the labour law and Acsa policy and as such employees have recourse as governed by said law.

"No employees were coerced by Acsa to sign the document and each had a choice to sign the agreement or not," Noruwana said.

She said Acsa had contracted security companies to replace the suspended workers and that the replacements were qualified for airport security.

- City Press