Transnet and Numsa to lock horns

Union will represent workers placed on precautionary suspension following allegations of go-slows and misuse of equipment

Transnet sign outside their offices.
Transnet sign outside their offices.
Image: SowetanLIVE

It is a showdown between trade union Numsa and rail and port giant Transnet on Tuesday as the fate of at least 250 workers at the state-owned parastatal hangs in the balance.

The large group of workers are on Tuesday – via their Numsa representatives – expected to furnish the company with reasons why they should not face full suspension following allegations of misconduct.

They were on Monday served with precautionary suspension letters following allegations that they tampered with crucial communication devices, while others allegedly embarked on unauthorised go-slows.

The move to hand such a large number of workers precautionary suspension letters posed operational challenges, Transnet said.

It has since activated a business contingency plan to ensure minimal impact.

The disgruntled workers had a meeting with regional Numsa leaders in Newton Park on Monday afternoon for the union to represent them on Tuesday when they have to face off with their employer.

Numsa’s Nelson Mandela Bay organiser, Ronnie Mgubasi, said the union first wanted a full list of those employees who could face full suspension.

“What we are going to do [on Tuesday] is to make submissions as to why you should not be suspended,” Mgubasi told a conference room packed with workers.

“We also want a list of all of those who have been given letters of suspension and then [to] declare a dispute of unfair suspension.”

Transnet could also face legal action over the workers’ precautionary suspension.

“We have also discussed the possibility of interdicting this party [Transnet] and we want [our] legal team to give us [an] indication whether that is possible,” Mgubasi said.

Numsa regional secretary Mziyanda Twani said even though the workers had been put on precautionary suspension with full pay, the union would rather have them at work than sitting at home.

“This issue of suspension talks of mismanagement at Transnet,” he claimed.

“Because the entire 250 people who have been suspended are suspended on full pay and that means taxpayers’ money is being misused because Transnet is a state-owned enterprise.

“We want the suspensions lifted so workers can return to work,” Twani said.

“What we are told [by the employees] is that it’s a whole shift of about 250 workers who have been suspended.

“The employer alleges a lot of things, for instance that they embarked on go-slows and the misuse of the two-way radios.

“Transnet alleges workers want to sabotage the company in that the workers had been switching the radios off and then on, when these should have been on.”

Twani defended all the workers.

“These tools [two-way radios] are all over the place and some workers who have previously worked for Transnet may even still have them and they could possibly be listening to everything that goes on at the company.

“So it is something the company is unable to control – they can’t pin the blame on an individual, they will first need to tell us who has done what, where and when,” Twani said.

Transnet spokesperson Molatwane Likhethe confirmed the precautionary suspensions.

“An employer has the right to action when the actions of workers are seemingly not kosher, ” Likhethe said.

“We are grateful to our customers for their continued support and we are committed to providing reliable and efficient services.