Johannesburg - The future is uncertain for Bosasa workers as the embattled company weighs its liquidation options after allegations of bribery and tender corruption surfaced at the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture.
Former Bosasa chief operating officer Angelo Agrizzi and other senior executives laid bare before Justice Raymond Zondo the alleged trail of money and gifts making their way to government officials’ pockets in exchange for lucrative contracts. Absa and FNB inevitably withdrew their banking services to the company, making doing business virtually impossible.
The Krugersdorp-based company then filed for voluntary liquidation and, as a result, put 4500 jobs on the line. Workers told the Sunday Independent that Bosasa, now known as African Global Operations, took them for granted after some were allegedly placed on suspension as part of the liquidation process.
The aggrieved workers said they were taken by surprise two weeks ago when they were told verbally to vacate the offices.
“These suspensions came as a surprise. We were told that this would be a suspension without pay and we assume that the reason is because of the current liquidation process. I guess they don’t need us any more but are afraid to say so,” said an employee who introduced himself as Stewart.
He said employees from various departments in the main office were affected, but could not give a number.
“Everything was done verbally. And the thing is, it gets to a point where we feel like the liquidator is just doing what he wants and not listening to everyone. And right now we are concerned about our benefits, which might be a problem because people are on suspension, which may lead to termination of contracts.”
Another employee, Disebo Selebi, said the suspensions were done without the human resources management department’s knowledge.
“We were shocked because the liquidator told us not to panic when he arrived. He told us this process is going to be longer. But we were shocked when he told us the company doesn’t need us any longer and referred us to HR to collect our forms for UIF so that we can get our pension fund.
“But we were surprised that human resources was not aware of this. They were confused and didn’t know what to do, and they didn’t give us those forms because nothing was written, it was just verbal,” said Selebi.
A third employee who refused to be named said he was suspended without pay. “We lodged a complaint as to why are we suspended, but we were told that we were not fired but suspended. I think they are running away from paying us our packages We need the company to retrench or fire us so they can give us our packages because I have a house, a car and a child I need to take care of,” he said.
Meanwhile, SA Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu) spokesperson Zanele Sabela said it had a meeting with Bosasa and liquidators this week.
“Bosasa indicated that they want to withdraw (the liquidation application) because they used the wrong section (of the law) and they re-applied using the section that will allow them to appoint their own liquidator rather than using the one appointed by court.
“And we have a problem because why do they want to use their own liquidator?” said Sabela.
Bosasa referred questions to liquidator Ralph Lutchman, who refused to disclose the details of the application. He said employee contracts should be suspended according to section 38A of the Insolvency Act.
“The employees were therefore not suspended by the liquidators but are suspended in terms of the said section. The liquidators have temporarily employed some of the employees to assist them with the continued operations, including the servicing of contracts that are still in place with various provincial and national departments,” said Lutchman.
“Employees are not required to work and the employer is not required to pay them. The employees, however, are allowed to claim their benefits from the UIF and we have started with the process of providing these employees with the documents they require to submit such claims.”
According to section 38 of the Insolvency Act 3, the contracts of employees whose employer has been sequestrated are suspended with effect from the date of the granting of a sequestration order. The Act further states that an employee whose contract is suspended is not required to render services in terms of the contract and is not entitled to any remuneration of the contract, and they are entitled to unemployment benefits in terms of section 35 of the Unemployment Insurance Act 30 of 1966.