KFC has been forced to reinstate an Empangeni employee who was fired for bringing non-halaal food to work.
Jabulani Cele was to resume working at the KFC branch in the KZN town today after the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration overturned his employer’s decision to fire him.
The CCMA made public its finding on Friday, ordering Colefax Trading and Yum Restaurants to allow Cele back to work before 1pm.
Colefax and Yum own a chain of KFC restaurants around the country and have a policy that restricts employees from bringing food to work as they follow Islamic laws.
The CCMA ordered that Cele be paid about R5 200 in back-pay 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 in March when Cele, 31, refused to submit to the rule and brought his lunchbox, containing uphuthu and bean curry, into the KFC branch.
He was immediately handed a final written warning that he refused to sign, maintaining he had a right to bring his food to work.
He was suspended and later hauled to a disciplinary hearing that found him guilty of breaching the policy. He was fired from the job he had held for six years in June.
KFC Empangeni provides staff with two pieces of chicken daily. Cele said he did not like chicken, so he brought his own lunch.
However, Timm said KFC did not have a policy prohibiting 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 served to customers,” he said.
Timm said the policy that had led to Cele’s firing was in line with global best practice in food safety.
He did not say whether the policy would now be reviewed.
The CCMA ruling states: “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 Unions, said the employer had pledged to consult with the union before passing policies that affected workers.
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 restricted from bringing their food to work.
“But I’m also concerned that I will now be intimidated. I’m happy that, through my case, there will be changes to this oppressive policy.”