Simunye Workers’ Forum Defeats Snack Giant Simba in the Labour Court!

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Casual Workers’ Advice Office (CWAO) – Simunye Workers’ Forum (SWF)

The SWF won a victory against snack manufacturing giant Simba in the
Johannesburg Labour Court on 21 November, with Simba forced to withdraw
its bid for a permanent interdict against deemed permanent workers
together with permanent workers who went on strike over Simba cancelling
the free transport it used to provide.

(A ‘deemed permanent worker’ refers to a worker who is still being
forced to work for a company via a labour broker even though the
Constitutional Court in 2018 clearly ruled that any worker who has been
doing a permanent job for more than three months at one company is
automatically deemed permanent. Many bosses have flouted this ruling
ever since).

It has become normal for companies to rush to the Labour Court every
time workers go on strike. Even when workers follow all LRA procedures
correctly, employers always tell the court that the strike is violent
and unprotected. The Labour Court routinely hands out interim
interdicts, which defeat workers’ strike action, and therefore their
constitutional rights. Many of these interim interdicts have no solid
legal basis and if workers can afford a competent legal team, they
usually manage to have the interim interdicts overturned. This is a
clear abuse of the interdict system by bosses.

The details of this matter are:

On 4 October 2023, workers at two Simba plants (Isando and Pepsico in
Gauteng) commenced a strike after referring a dispute to the CCMA about
the cancellation of their free transport. Simba had decided to save
costs by cancelling the transport – in effect significantly reducing
workers’ wages, as they would now have to pay R50-R100 to get to work
each day. The strike was orderly and peaceful.

Simba immediately rushed to the Labour Court for an interdict. They
served the application on the CWAO-SWF organiser Jacob Potlaki on the
evening of 4 October, with just 16 hours’ notice to appear in court.
This was a violation of section 68.2 of the Labour Relations Act, which
says that employers should not approach the courts without giving the
workers less than 48 hours’ notice. Simba even tried to interdict workers
who were not on strike.

In the Labour Court on 5 October 2023, Simba denied unilaterally
cancelling the free transport, saying that they had ‘consulted’ workers
about it. The SWF’s legal team rejected this argument because workers
did not agree to the change, therefore it was an unlawful unilateral
change entitling workers to strike pending conciliation by the CCMA.

Despite the short notice and the fact that SWF was not even given a
chance to file its own papers, the Labour Court issued a temporary
interdict declaring the strike unlawful and unprotected and ordering SWF
to tell its members to return to work by 10am on 6 October.

A month later, Simba launched disciplinary proceedings against the
workers, accusing them of participating in an unprotected strike and an
‘unlawful picket’.

A large group of Simba workers accompanied the SWF legal team who
appeared in the Labour Court on 21 November 2023 to have the temporary
interdict withdrawn. Simba’s own legal team then abruptly advised Simba
to have the interdict cancelled. The judge then cancelled the
interdict. SWF is asking the court to force Simba to pay their legal
costs.

[ends]

For comment please call Jacob Potlaki (CWAO Organiser) on 082 810 6134

This press statement was released by the Casual Workers Advice Office and Simunye Workers Forum on 23 November 2023.

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