The court recently postponed the matter to allow Denel, which has so far not clarified how it intends to honour its obligations to workers, to comply fully with the court order. Picture: Siphiwe Sibeko, Reuters.
The court recently postponed the matter to allow Denel, which has so far not clarified how it intends to honour its obligations to workers, to comply fully with the court order. Picture: Siphiwe Sibeko, Reuters.

Uasa disappointed at inability of the court to resolve non-payment of employees

By Edward West Time of article published Aug 2, 2021

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THE UNITED Association of South Africa (Uasa) said it was deeply disappointed that even the courts were unable to speedily resolve the fate of workers at state arms manufacturer Denel after the matter was last week postponed to December, leaving workers, who were now owed in excess of R816 million since May 2020, in limbo.

The court recently postponed the matter to allow Denel, which has so far not clarified how it intends to honour its obligations to workers, to comply fully with the court order.

The union took legal action against Denel last year after it did not comply with a court order to deal with outstanding employment contractual matters for May, June and July 2020, namely Pay As You Earn tax, and Unemployment Insurance Fund and pension/provident fund payments, on behalf of members.

Acting Labour Court Judge Moses Baloyi postponed Uasa’s application, ruling that the case needed further judicial supervision to ensure that the court order was implemented.

Uasa spokesperson Abigail Moyo said it was concerned about the continuous postponements after its legal representation argued that the judicial supervision of the court should remain in place, because Denel had not complied with the court order for more than a year.

Acting Judge Baloyi ordered Denel to file an affidavit setting out the steps taken to comply with the court order 10 days before the December 2 court date.

“Uasa will continue to fight for the rights of its members employed at Denel until justice is served. Uasa will do its level best to make sure that Denel pays what they owe our members,” Moyo said.

Moyo said many workers at the state-owned enterprise (SOE) have not been paid in full or at all since May last year, and while the company still expected workers to report for duty, it has shown little progress towards finding a solution to the crisis.

She said Denel has not taken Uasa into its confidence as to how it intends to resolve its financial and liquidity issues, despite members having bent over backwards to accommodate the SOE.

“How Denel still expects workers to report for duty is beyond imagination. Many of the affected workers are breadwinners with bills to pay and families to feed but are prohibited from doing so because Denel continues to fail them on pay-days,” she said.

Minister for Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan recently told Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Finance that the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan identified the defence and aerospace industry as key to economic growth, particularly in localisation and exports.

Gordhan said the Defence and Aerospace Masterplan, finalised last year, had a confirmed order book of R11 billion, but was unable to secure the necessary capital or the support of suppliers to execute the contracts.

In an open letter recently, a Denel employee questioned the failure of the country’s leadership to solve the financial crisis.

“Where is Pravin Gordhan? Where are the political leaders with all their empty promises? Where are the trade unions? Are we, the Denel employees, also part of the South African democracy? Employees need answers urgently,” the worker wrote.

Workers have lost their houses, their cars and everything they have worked for. Their credit records were littered with missed payments.

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BUSINESS REPORT ONLINE

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