Nhlanhla Mbatha alleges that he worked for 13 months at eNCA as a sub-editor without a contract from October 2015 to the end of November last year, when he was “unceremoniously” told his contract had finished - “even though I never signed one”.
He is taking the channel to the Labour Court in this regard, where papers have been filed, following an unsuccessful attempt to get what he felt was recourse at the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) in March.
Mbatha’s allegations follow those made by freelance anchors at eNCA - who spoke to The Star on condition of anonymity in a report earlier this month - alleging they too worked at the channel without contracts.
Speaking on what he called his ordeal at the channel, Mbatha said he responded to an online advert for the sub-editor position - “after 20 years of being a sub-editor for print publications” - where he was invited for an interview.
The chief sub-editor and a representative from the channel’s human resources department were present for his interview, the names of whom are known to The Star.
“My interview was successful, but I was told I would be put on three months’ probation (ending in December 2015) because I had no experience in digital media and they wanted to see if I could make the transition.
“After the probation, no contract was offered, but I continued to work for the channel as my name kept being placed on the roster,” Mbatha said.
He added that he worked all the shifts available - 4am to 11am; 11am to 6pm; 2pm to 10pm; including weekend shifts - working “an average of 20 days a month”.
In an earlier interview with The Star, John Botha, a labour law expert with the listed Adcorp Group, asserted that the Basic Conditions of Employment Act precluded employers from not offering written contracts to employees working more than 24 hours in a month.
However, Mark Rosin, the group chief operations officer at eNCA’s controlling company eMedia Investments, hit back at Mbatha’s claims, pointing to the March CCMA judgment in the channel’s favour as confirmation that “Mr Mbatha was not in an employment relationship with the company”.
“The CCMA applied the relevant tests and found he was not an employee. He had accepted freelance tax deductions and worked elsewhere while providing services to us,” Rosin said, adding that eNCA would make representations to the Labour Court and was confident it would rule in the company’s favour.
But Mbatha disputed Rosin’s view that he worked elsewhere while working for eNCA, saying the channel was his only source of income at the time, and made deductions from his salary.
Asked whether eNCA feared labour violations, factoring in allegations by freelance anchors that they work without contracts and Mbatha’s case, Rosin said: “Any suggestions that eNCA does not adhere to the labour laws of the country are false. The matter of contracts, freelance and otherwise, is an internal matter on which we will not be drawn to comment in public.”
This comes as eNCA’s former entertainment reporter, Nontobeko Sibisi, is challenging her dismissal at the CCMA.