Dis-Chem labour broker workers have won a significant victory through the new LRA section 198 rights. 127 workers have been made permanent Dis-Chem workers, with three more CCMA cases involving 317 workers to be heard in February.
Dis-Chem employs two labour broking companies at its distribution depot in Midrand: Bidvest Vericon and Global Solutions. The workers referred disputes to the CCMA in 2016, demanding they be employed permanently by Dis-Chem, and get the same wages and conditions of employment as the company’s permanent workers.
Three of the disputes have resulted in Dis-Chem agreeing to make 127 workers permanent, to give them medical aid and provident fund membership, and reduce their monthly working hours from 180 to 172, in line with its other permanent workers. The CCMA agreement will also see the workers cancel their contracts of employment with the labour broker, making Dis-Chem their only employer.
This is a big victory for the workers. Other labour broking and client companies have put up a lot of resistance to the new rights for workers, mainly through victimisation or completely ignoring CCMA awards against them.
But even at Dis-Chem the struggle is far from over. The company will phase in the permanency of the workers between January and September, 2017. It will have little option but to also make the other 317 permanent, and it is not clear how it will respond when these workers’ cases come before the CCMA. The two labour broking companies have themselves responded very differently to workers’ demands. Global Solutions has been most hostile, dismissing three of the worker activists. Most of the 317 workers whose cases are coming up work for Global Solutions.
The workers are in the process of setting up a Dis-Chem workers’ council, through which they can bargain with management and raise issues that concern workers. They donated R1000 to the Simunye Workers Forum (SWF) solidarity fund to show their support. Labour broker and contract workers have set up the SWF to build unity and solidarity across industrial sectors.