Workers ‘in ruin’ despite job dispute victory

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iol pic power- Ziphozonke Lushaba The view of Soweto during The City power tour. Picture: Ziphozonke Lushaba

Johannesburg - More than 30 workers who prevailed over Joburg City Power in a two-year court battle to save their jobs have been left in the lurch without reason or compensation -two months after a second court found in their favour.

This week, Richard Skosana and his colleagues - all former employees of Grinpal Energy Management Services - went to City Power to demand that the power utility comply with two court orders made against it.

But they were turned away and told to return on Monday after briefly meeting with the company’s legal representative. They complained bitterly about how they had been treated.

“Fifty days after the Labour Appeals Court dismissed City Power’s court bid, we are still being ignored while we sit at home and suffer with our families, with no income,” said Skosana. “This is an injustice because it has been two years now for all of us here without a salary, yet no one seems to even respect the rule of law.”

At the centre of a bitter dispute between the former Grinpal - a company once contracted to the utility - employees and City Power is a termination agreement two years ago, which would ensure the entire business and its workers were transferred to the Joburg entity.

City Power terminated its contract with Grinpal on July 31, 2012, nine years after the company was awarded a tender to supply prepaid metering and electrical infrastructure installation in Alexandra after service agreement disputes.

The agreements were concluded to govern the manner in which Grinpal supplied, installed, operated and maintained voltage systems related to infrastructure, according to the court papers.

In May, the Labour Appeal Court dismissed City Power’s bid to have an earlier court order confirming the agreement and transfer of the workers to the utility overturned.

City Power argued in its appeal that the workers could not be transferred to it, as there was no justification in terms of the Labour Relations Act. The utility said the consequence of the termination of agreements with Grinpal was that the company would exit the scene with all its equipment and its employees.

But according to a letter written by Grinpal’s attorney on a meeting held in July 2012, it was clear in light of a proposed termination that City Power would absorb all front-end staff and community liaison officers on its payroll.

According to court papers, pursuant to this agreement, the details of the handover process as set out were confirmed in a minute of a meeting which took place between representatives of Grinpal and City Power on July 18.

Arthur Pilane, one of the employees fighting to get their jobs back at City Power, said their lives had been put on hold for the past two years while the dispute dragged on in the courts.

“What we want now is justice. We have won in court, which strengthens our claim to employment or compensation by City Power, but they are refusing to abide by the court order,” he said.

“We find it irregular that City Power has instead continued to pay some community liaison workers while the rest of us are left with no bread on the table.”

The workers claimed their families had been left in “ruin” by the situation, as many said they couldn’t even be paid for their service to the company of almost 10 years.

“We appeal to whoever is in power to look at our situation as it is now becoming dire,” pleaded another employee, Mike Setati.

Mashudu Monyai, acting general manager of City Power legal and compliance, would not comment on the matter, except to say that “we are in the process of appealing the decision in the Constitutional Court. The matter is sub-judice.”

- Saturday Star


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