Cape Town - A handful of Robertson and Caine employees staged a soft picket outside the international catamaran manufacturing company.
The picket, guided by the Public Service and Commercial Union (PSCU), was to protest against ongoing challenges faced by the company’s workforce aligned with the PSCU.
However, despite receiving notice of the picket from PSCU before the group gathering, Robertson and Caine’s management shunned the demonstration, nudging the group to a quiet corner and refusing to accept the union’s memorandum.
PSCU spokesperson Anthea Abrahams said she was not surprised by management’s behaviour as it corroborated what the catamaran manufacturer’s working ground force had been saying for months.
“We have tried more than once to sit down with Robertson and Caine to discuss our people’s grievances, but they have never been willing to do so amicably. At one point they told us that we did not have the numbers to request a meeting with management. This is an outright lie, we have more than 120 union members at this plant.”
According to Abrahams, employees at Robertson and Caine approached the union for assistance with racial discrimination, intimidation, lack of training and upskilling, and the inability to have union representation during disciplinary hearings.
“We are calling for an end to the injustice and illegal labour practices by Robertson and Caine. It can never be that a multimillion-dollar company is allowed to come into our country and mistreat our people like this,” Abrahams said.
An employee, who did not want to be named fearing victimisation, said that while he agreed and stood by the memorandum drafted by the PSCU, he was scared to join the picket because he could lose his job.
“I have been working here for nine years, and this company has always been like this. They mistreat us and intimidate us when we try to speak up. I have to be careful, because I still need to put food on the table. We don’t get trained, yet money is deducted from our salaries.
“We are overlooked for positions we are qualified for. This is a family business through and through. You can be fired for anything, I have seen people who are good employees and skilled fired just because, and production doesn’t stop because tomorrow a cousin or an in-law will be hired in their stead. Just this month, a few of our guys were fired, they don’t even know why,” the worker said.
One of Robertson and Caine’s former employees, Jodeci Losper, said he lost his job less than a month ago for sabotage and being disruptive.
Losper, who worked in the company’s joinery department, said: “I received a letter in August notifying me that I had to go to HR. I went, and they told me that I was to appear before the disciplinary committee. The letter stated that the incident took place in June on the fifth.
“On the day I was reportedly insubordinate. I do not recall doing anything of the sort. That day came and went without any hurdles so when I was given two days to draft my case I didn’t know what to do, much less who to call for help. I was told that I was guilty during and after the meeting, but told to go back to work.
“A few days later I was told that I was fired and escorted from the premises. I was let go for something I didn’t do after five years of not having any issues at Robertson and Caine,” Losper said.
Currently, Losper is in the process of appealing against his termination, with the assistance of the PSCU.
“Jodeci’s issues are one of the reasons we won’t let this matter rest until things change here. When a foreign company comes to our country they need to follow the rules and regulations. Employees here are called to HR or to appear before the disciplinary committee. They are not allowed to have union representatives present with them,” Abrahams said.
The PSCU said that it will be giving Robertson and Caine 30 working days to respond to its memorandum, and failure to do so would result in further demonstrative action by the union.
When approached for comment, Robertson and Caine said they will not comment.