Employees of Sanral’s toll operator, Electronic Toll Collection (ETC), face an uncertain future.
In a letter from Traffic Management Technologies dated May 7, 71 employees were told there would be retrenchments following the legally enforced delay in toll commencement, described by the company as “circumstances beyond the company’s control”.
An ETC employee, who asked to remain anonymous out of fear that disclosure of her name might jeopardise any chances she might have of being offered employment within another division of the company, said she was “very disappointed”.
“We risked our lives on the roads every day. We were insulted and laughed at and yet we did our jobs,” said the employee, who spent months working from a mobile office recruiting road users to buy e-tags. “We made more than R25 million for the company.
“I compiled a group response based on the comments of my co-workers. It was handed to them but we were never given an opportunity to discuss it. I think it was just a formality.”
According to the letter, transfers to other divisions within the group were considered as well as negotiations with ETC to employ all staff who would be affected by the failure to roll out e-tolling. However, the letter further states that “subject to issues arising during the consultation process to date, management fails to see any alternatives as appropriate to address the problem adequately”.
The employee said: “We have not been given any opportunity to talk about the retrenchment. When we call Sanral, they refer us to ETC and ETC refers us back to Sanral. We have now been told that this month would be our last.”
A meeting with a representative from ETC on May 16 at the Samrand offices was described as “fruitless”.
“We were told that this is the way it is and should we wish to, we could apply to be part of the youth subsidy. Youth subsidy? How will that pay the bills?” she asked.
The source said the employees still reported to work on a daily basis.
“We start the day with vehicle inspection and the rest of the time we attend skills development classes.
“If they are planning to retrench us, why do we have to attend these workshops? The company has not been liquidated. Why can we not stay on at the company until the court makes a formal ruling?”
She said they were given no indication about who would be retrenched and who would stay on. However, they were told retrenchment would be on a last-in, first-out basis.
ETC chief executive Salahdin Yacoubi said there had been no retrenchments based on operational requirements at ETC.
Yacoubi could not comment on the contents of the letter as he had not seen it, but said he was aware of consultations that had been initiated by an ETC sub-contractor with the aim of finding possible alternatives to retrenchment.
Traffic Management Technologies, which develops, designs and maintains transport management solutions in SA, did not want to comment on its involvement with Sanral or ETC.
Yacoubi confirmed that employees were attending workshops. “With tolling still the subject of legal and other processes, there is no indication of when tolling will commence,” he said.
“ETC is currently using this opportunity to invest in skills development of all employees in preparation.”
Yacoubi denied that employees had not been given an opportunity to discuss the issue of retrenchment.
“Retrenchment is dealt with in the Labour Relations Act in detail. We know that consultation and discussion are fundamental. There has been no need for ETC to consult, as there have been no retrenchments,” he said.
Meanwhile, employees of e-toll stores are still staffing them on a daily basis, including weekends. It is unclear if they face the same fate as ETC employees.
A retail leasing consultant at Irene Village mall said rentals there cost R350 to R400/m2.
“The cost differs depending on the location and size of the store, but as far as I am aware the e-toll store is about 100m2,” she said.
She explained that the square metre amount excluded water, electricity, rates and taxes.
Asked if the employees were paid overtime on weekends, Yacoubi said remuneration was managed in terms of each employee’s contract of employment, which complied with the Basic Conditions of Employment Act.
This came after Transport Minister S’bu Ndebele officially withdrew the e-toll rates notice in the Government Gazette on May 31, said chief executive Kallie Kriel.
Kriel welcomed the withdrawal and said AfriForum would closely watch further developments. Should the fee be re-introduced, the matter would be taken up again.
“The withdrawal of the rates notice now presents AfriForum’s legal team with the opportunity to submit inputs, as a friend of the court, in the case in which government is lodging an appeal against the interim order granted against the implementation of the e-toll system,” Kriel said.
The penalty tariff notice was published in the Government Gazette on April 13.
This was a court action separate from an interdict on April 28 that halted e-tolling pending a full judicial review.
The government has since approached the Constitutional Court to appeal against the interdict.