WORKERS in the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa, the National Transport Movement and the SA Transport and Allied Workers Union, on Monday 20 June, began a protected strike against LSG Sky Chefs, a company which provides catering services to international airlines.
The workers’ main demand to the company is to institute disciplinary actions against its General Manager, Liza Antonopoulos, for her ill-treatment of workers. Organised labour met with the employer several times but without any agreement. The company further applied to CCMA (Commission for Conciliation and Arbitration) for facilitation under Section 150 of the LRA but then abandoned the process.
Later on the three unions jointly declared a dispute to the CCMA in terms of section 64 of Labour Relations Act, which covers unilateral changes to the terms and conditions of employment by employers. A non-resolution certificate was issued on 7 June 2016 and the unions served a 48-hours’ notice on 17 June 2016.
The company tried to interdict the strike but they were overruled by the Labour Court on 21 June 2016, which only imposed normal conditions on the unions not to commit any unlawful conduct. Around 550 workers, out of a plus/minus 640 staff complement in Jet Park, Gauteng, are participating in this strike. Our grievances are:
1. Favouritism towards certain newly appointed employees by recommending higher salaries to them, thus disadvantaging the current employees who earn lower salaries.
2. Unfair treatment of staff by Liza Antonopoulos.
(a) Bullying of staff
(b) Shouting at staff.
3. Oppression and threatening of staff whereby workers are not allowed to knock off until the manager decides.
4. Insulting drivers by alleging that they are urinating in the back of the trucks.
5. Stamping of staff upon exiting the premises, meaning that no employee will leave without finishing their job after the end of a shift, as exit can only be authorised provided you have a stamp.
6. Unfair discrimination by forcing workers not to wear their religious/cultural jewellery/hand bands.
LSG Sky Chefs workers were quoted in The Star newspaper on 21 June. One said: ‘If you do one small thing, even just eat a biscuit or make a simple mistake, they fire you on the spot, no warnings, nothing. They don’t want black people working here. We live in a democratic country, treat us properly. Treat us equally. We cannot have racism, not now, not ever’.
A 51-year-old woman told The Star that she had been working for LSG Sky Chefs since 1996 and she was paid only R3,000 a month. I have been working here for 20 years and I’m expected to train interns who get paid a lot more than I do. It’s wrong; I have a family to support. I want to send them to school and give them a good education, but I can’t do that on R3,000.’
Another worker said the company supplies food to global flights and makes millions in profit, ‘but we get paid peanuts’. Numsa declares its total support for the strike and demands that the company responds positively and urgently to the workers’ absolutely legitimate demands.
About 300 workers stood at the Jones and Springbok roads intersection singing Struggle songs, brandishing sticks, sjamboks and posters. LSG Sky Chefs’ workers said they were striking over poor wages, racism and poor working conditions at the company’s depot in Jet Park, Boksburg.
Afraid to identify themselves out of fear of losing their jobs, several workers complained that they had been mistreated by management. Numsa official Robert Seroka said the union had had several meetings with management about the way workers are treated but no agreement could be reached.
‘They are intimidating workers, forcing them to stay beyond their working hours. We support this protected strike and stand in solidarity with the employees,’ he said. LSG Sky Chefs director of corporate communications Kerstin Lau said the company was a member of the Bargaining Council for Restaurant, Catering and Allied trades. ‘All wage negotiations are concluded at this council and LSG Sky Chefs SA complies with the agreement and implements the decision taken accordingly,’ she said.
• The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) members in Mpumalanga have marched to the Lily Mine offices demanding that the company prioritise finding the bodies of three miners who have been trapped underground for almost four months.
Solomon Nyerende, Pretty Nkambule and Yvonne Mnisi have still not been found by rescue teams after a section of the mine caved in in February. Operations at the mine have since been shut down leaving about 900 workers jobless. The trade union federation’s says mine management is not doing enough to ensure that the three miners are found.
The union’s Fidel Mlombo says the only way the families of the workers will find closure is if the bodies of the three miners are found. ‘These workers are still underground, one of them was pregnant so this means it was four people. We are demanding that Lily Mine management must prioritise the recovery of the four people so that the families can bury them accordingly.’
The Congress of South African Trade Unions has noted the response by the Lily Mine management to justify why they cannot afford to make available resources to rescue trapped miners. ‘The federation condemns the attitude of the employer on the issue of recovering these workers because they seem to be more concerned with profits and not the workers. They pretend as if it”s not their responsibility to protect and take care of their own employees.
‘By pleading poverty, they are also being disingenuous because they have a production plant in the same area that is fully operational and making profit. Between the government and the mine owners there are sufficient resources to still recover the bodies of those three mineworkers without putting any rescuer at risk.
‘Both government and the mine management have done nothing so far to convince us that they are committed to recovering the workers nor that they care about the safety and the wellbeing of the workers. The mining sector has been the backbone of this country’s economy for years and for all those years, workers have been used as disposable tools by the mine owners with the connivance of government.
‘The federation is unrelenting in its demand that the Lily Mine management should prioritise the retrieval of the three employees trapped underground. We still demand that the affected families of the three workers be compensated as per the promises made by the Minister of Mineral Resources – Mosebenzi Zwane. The workers have been made redundant by the accident should be paid their full salaries since the month of April.
‘The federation is encouraged by the Human Rights Commission”s commitment to investigate this tragic accident. It is not acceptable that up to now nothing has been paid to the poor affected families and workers that are sitting at home with no salaries for three months now.
‘We call on the president and the cabinet to intervene on the Lily Mine matter. A clear message needs to be sent out that the Lily mine management cannot resume mining activities without putting adequate measures for prevention, early detection and a workable rescue plan in place. Greed cannot be placed above the lives of workers.’