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Zululand, KwaZulu-Natal - KFC has to reinstate and give backpay to an Empangeni employee who was fired for bringing non-halaal food to work.
Jabulani Cele resumes work at the KFC branch in the Zululand town on Monday.
The Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) has overturned his employer’s decision to fire him.
The CCMA made its finding public on Friday.
It ordered Colefax Trading (Pty) Ltd and Yum Restaurants to allow Cele to return to work before 1pm on Monday.
Colefax and Yum own a string of KFC restaurants around the country. Because they follow Islamic laws, they have a policy that forbids employees from bringing food to work.
The commission ordered that Cele be paid R5 200 – backpay for two months – and that he be allowed to bring his own food to work.
KFC chief marketing officer Dave Timm confirmed Cele’s reinstatement.
The trouble started when Cele, 31, refused to submit to the rule and waded into hot water in March when he took his lunchbox, which contained phuthu and bean curry, into the KFC branch where he worked.
He was immediately handed a letter of final written warning, which he refused to sign, maintaining he had a right to bring his food to work.
He was suspended and later hauled before a disciplinary hearing, which found him guilty of breaching the policy.
He was fired from his job, which he had held for six years.
KFC Empangeni provides its employees with two pieces of chicken a day.
Cele said he did not like chicken, which was why he preferred to bring his own lunch.
Timm said in a statement that KFC did not have a policy that prohibited staff from bringing food into its stores.
“It does have strict policies requiring staff to keep their food in designated areas to prevent the cross-contamination of foods with those prepared and served to customers,” he said.
He added that the policy that led to Cele being fired was in line with global best practice in food safety.
He could not say whether it would be reviewed in the light of the latest development.
The CCMA ruled: “The applicant may take his food to work subject to the respondent’s policies, which will be drafted in consultation with the union.”
Bheki Shabane, provincial secretary of the United Chemical Industries Mining Electrical State Health and Aligned Workers Union, said Cele’s employer had pledged to consult the union before passing policies that affected workers.
“We were concerned that this policy would influence all 91 KFC restaurants around the country,” he said.
“We would like other people who are affected by such policies to consult us.”
Cele, a father of two, said he was “ecstatic” to have his job back and that the CCMA ruling would benefit his colleagues, who were also prevented from bringing their food to work.
“But I’m also concerned that I will now be intimidated,” he said.
“I’m happy that, through my case, there will be changes to this oppressive policy. Shabane is a strong guy when it comes to fighting for workers’ rights.”
The union has also asked the CCMA to demand that KFC withdraw a final warning issued to a fellow employee of Cele, Nokuthula Buthelezi, who was also accused of bringing food to work. - The Mercury