Former employees of private ambulance service recall alleged exploitation by employer

Avron Shane Poggenpoel. Picture: Supplied

Avron Shane Poggenpoel. Picture: Supplied

Published Jul 10, 2023


Cape Town - Several former staff members of private ambulance service ResQ 911 have accused their ex-employer Avron Shane Poggenpoel of dismissing staff just before they were due to complete probation despite having promised to employ them permanently.

The former staff members said they were suspended and their salaries withheld over what they termed “trumped up” offences, without any disciplinary processes being instituted.

Thandiswa Nofemela, from New Crossroads, started working as a dispatcher on March 21, 2023.

After having completed her training, she was informed that the person who had trained her was no longer employed and requested to train dispatchers. She said once this was successfully completed, she was suspended and dismissed in June.

“Whenever he (Poggenpoel) fires someone, he tells us not to make contact with anyone. He doesn’t say what the reasons are. He keeps on employing new people. On April 19, he employed a new dispatcher. I trained her and a few days later he employed another dispatcher and then I trained both of them. After I trained those two, apparently I couldn’t do my job anymore.”

Nofemela said she was dismissed on June 26 for giving an “incorrect quotation” and was owed R13 500 in salary for June.

Eerste River resident Ricardo Barends worked for the company for six months without a contract. Barends said he was suspended on May 26 for “stealing time” and was not paid at the end of May 2023.

“I didn’t steal time because there were a number of times when I started work 25 minutes before I was supposed to start, or I was late at work but didn’t document it. And just the one time I left 30 minutes earlier, they charged me for that.

“They also charged me for reckless driving, which wasn’t true, and some other stuff that they didn't have any hearings for so they suspended me for two weeks. And when I went back after two weeks, they told me that my shift wasn’t working and they would let me know when my shift started working, but never did.”

Lansdowne resident Firzaana Sahabodien resigned from ResQ 911 and is still owed the salary for the month in which she resigned.

“It first started with minor things: the swearing and his tantrums, which would be overlooked and then forgotten when he was in a better mood. He is rude and has no way of speaking to people and at first refused to take on any African people, but now as far as I know that’s his only option.”

Another former employee, who started on June 9, was told he was off duty until further notice on June 20. He said had not received any payment for the 12-hour shifts he worked.

Mitchells Plain resident Charles Hangkas worked at the company from February 6 until May 11.

“This guy has been misusing and exploiting us,” he said. “We didn’t even get our last pay.”

When the Cape Argus contacted Poggenpoel on Thursday, a lawyer acting on behalf of ResQ 911 immediately reached out to say that he would be dealing directly with the questions posed by the Cape Argus. After stating that he would not be able to meet the short deadline, this was extended.

The lawyer has yet to respond to the claims made by the staff members.

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