South Africa - Durban - 03 July 2019 - Greyville Racecourse in Durban home of the Vodacom Durban July. Picture: Bongani Mbatha/African News Agency ANA)
Durban - Vodacom Durban July preparations are on track and unaffected by any labour disputes, the event organiser’s chief executive said yesterday.

Gold Circle chief executive Michel Nairac said the event was “not at all” threatened by the labour dispute that Phumelela Gaming and Leisure was having with its staff, as a trade union had alleged in a media report yesterday.

Nairac said he had received “quite a few phone calls” from sponsors following the damaging report that the union would “shut down” the event, although the two firms were totally unrelated.

“Phumelela is JSE-listed and a licensed horse racing and totalisator betting operator in seven provinces, except KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape. We are the only race and betting totalisator operator in KZN, so it (the labour dispute) has nothing to do with us,” Nairac said.

Nairac said Phumelela had nothing to do with the Vodacom Durban July apart from its management supporting the event by coming as guests.

“This is not our problem, this is a Phumelela problem, everything is going ahead and on track. We’re expecting a bumper crowd,” he said.

When asked how the event would be affected as it was not run by Phumelela, Boitumelo Senokoane, general secretary of the Academic and Professional Staff Association (APSA), the union which made the initial threat, said they would “target a stakeholder” of the Vodacom Durban July.

He declined to divulge what this would entail.

Senokoane said Phumelela had initially wanted to retrench 800 employees, and the union had fought to reduce the number to 500, which was still not acceptable because 5000 people dependent on the workers as breadwinners could be impacted.

“We have been negotiating for three months. We put several proposals on the table but we can’t meet one another. Last night they wanted a meeting but there’s nothing new about the new offer,” he said.

Senokoane said the union had proposed that the firm cut the salaries of management and board members as well as of staff working in departments such as IT and accounts, to cut costs and save jobs. He said the union had also suggested that the firm share office space in buildings occupied by its group’s different divisions.

“We have given them until tomorrow morning and then we will make an example of what will happen,” Senokoane said.

Phumelela said in a statement yesterday that its executives had met APSA officials following the media report that the union was planning to disrupt the event.

The company also said that the Durban July was staged by Gold Circle, the horse racing and tote betting company in KZN.

Phumelela said it had recently undertook a Section 189A retrenchment process, facilitated by the CCMA, because it had no option but to close a number of stores that were not operating profitably.

“Simultaneously, several duplicated roles have been rationalised. Phumelela regrets the loss of jobs, but as is the case with numerous other companies, the current state of the South African economy leaves the company with absolutely no choice but to rationalise its operations,” the company said.

Phumelela said it had decided to amend its offer to its betting division staff after its latest meeting with the union. “This revised offer has been submitted to APSA officials and Phumelela is now awaiting a response.”

The Mercury