Cape Town - City call centre workers have accused two of their managers of racism, saying only black workers are being hauled to disciplinary hearings for sleeping on the job.
The SA Municipal Workers Union (Samwu) is representing 22 employees from the City of Cape Town’s technical operations call centre in Bellville. They say the city has failed to resolve a grievance case launched in 2011.
The employees say they are being victimised for raising their concerns about alleged racist treatment.
City manager Achmat Ebrahim responded: “The city is aware of this matter and a grievance process has been launched. In order not to compromise the process, no details can be made available at present.”
Samwu regional secretary Mike Khumalo said that after the dismissal of an employee, the employees pursued a collective racism grievance against two call centre managers. The workers allege the two managers were being racist regarding the different treatment of workers in disciplinary processes.
The grievance was lodged with the call centre management more than two years ago and Khumalo said that to date the city had not dealt with the case and no resolution had been reached.
The matter has now been taken to Ebrahim.
Samwu said that while they had been waiting for the grievance to be resolved, all 22 employees had been charged for sleeping on the job and now faced possible dismissal.
Employees also claimed white supervisors were getting better treatment.
“The management introduced 12-hour shifts, which is against labour law. The workers said these hours were forced on them and that there was no agreement.
“As a result of the long shifts, people fall asleep at their desks while waiting for calls,” Khumalo said.
He said in the case of one black worker who faced disciplinary action, she stated in her grievance letter that a white employee had brought a pillow to sleep at work but no action was taken against her.
Employees also claimed that only black supervisors were being demoted while no action was taken against white supervisors who also slept on the job.
“Instead of dealing with all the workers that were caught sleeping on camera, they ended up only charging the non-whites. There are strong concerns about this because the disciplinary action seems to be based on the colour of people’s skin.”
The union said it had written several letters to the city recommending the two white managers be moved to another call centre to avoid possible victimisation of workers but this had fallen on deaf ears.