Union faces R15m lawsuit

Good Hope Construction has "agreed in principle" to review a R1.3m settlement with the National Union of Mineworkers. Photo: WILLEM LAW

Good Hope Construction has "agreed in principle" to review a R1.3m settlement with the National Union of Mineworkers. Photo: WILLEM LAW

Published May 20, 2015


Cape Town - A violent labour dispute involving alleged kidnappings, a sjambok attack, malicious damage to property and a murder could see the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) sued for R15 million.

On Monday, the Labour Court ordered the NUM to pay R300 000 to compensate Good Hope Construction (GHC) for legal fees incurred during a court battle related to an ongoing spat between workers and the construction company.

NUM spokesperson Benson Ngqentsu refused to comment on the court’s ruling and the incidents mentioned in court.

A total of 170 GHC plasterers - citing a violation of labour laws - embarked on a strike on April 21.

The plasterers, who are represented by the NUM, protested at GHC sites in Macassar, Scottsdene, Philippi East and Delft, where property was damaged and work brought to a standstill for four weeks.

GHC owner Raziek Rajah said the company would use the ruling as a basis for a separate case in the Cape High Court to seek compensation for alleged damage to property and loss of income to the value of R15 million.

“Since the beginning of the strike, threats of violence and destruction were repeatedly made to GHC and our employees. Almost my entire staff has been traumatised and I have lost more than a month’s worth of business,” Rajah said.

The company’s attorneys intend filing a high court application in coming weeks.

In court papers, GHC contracts manager Suaid Cassim described the incidents related to the protests, including the alleged kidnapping of eight GHC employees, who were “stripped naked and whipped with a sjambok”.

Cassim said 20 employees were allegedly assaulted in separate incidents, some with knobkieries.

Ngqentsu said the strike came after GHC had systematically violated labour laws, including collective agreements.

“GHC has not provided protective equipment. There have been endless unprocedural lay-offs and workers have not being remunerated correctly.

“Other issues are overtime remuneration, employment of gangsters as security, the killing of one of our members and threats to our members,” Ngqentsu said.

Of the murder, Ngqentsu said: “We dip our banner on the dastardly killing of our comrade by the gang hired by Good Hope Construction in Kraaifontein. We are resolute that the fall of the workers’ hero shall lend a political meaning to our demands.”

Rajah said he was aware a NUM member had been killed during a protest last Thursday, but denied any involvement, saying GHC did not employ gangsters as security.

Both Rajah and Ngqentsu said they had lodged complaints at various police stations, but police could not confirm this on Tuesday.

Ngqentsu said there would be a protest march to GHC’s offices in Parow on Wednesday.

Rajah denied the allegations made by the NUM on Tuesday.

“There are always disputes in labour. Where we have had shortcomings in the past, we have looked to remedy that, but these allegations they are making are untrue,” Rajah said.

He said he would on Wednesday attempt to hand 170 employees notices to appear before a disciplinary hearing. “They have been out of work for five days and should be dismissed, but due to the nature of the situation we are giving them the opportunity to appear before an external arbitrator,” he said.

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