Experiencing joy and pain

Getting dismissed is quick. But fighting to get reinstated requires personal sacrifices that bring both joy and pain, as Pascalis Ntlele found out.

On April 24 2002 Pascalis Ntlele was working as usual at Kewberg Cables and Braids. But he was hungry and a break was far away. He set up his machine, checked that it was running properly and rushed out the factory gates to get himself food.

His action was to cost him his job.At his hearing the chairman dismissed him for fraudulent time-keeping.But Ntlele claimed that he was dismissed unfairly. Although he already had a final written warning in his file, he said that this was wrongly recorded – it should have been a notification instead.

But the company insisted that because he had a final written warning, his action warranted dismissal.He appealed against his dismissal and it was upheld.He went to the Numsa local office where the local organiser took up his case and declared a dispute. In 2004, after a failed conciliation, the matter was referred to an arbitrator.

Ntlele reinstatedIn October 2004, the arbitrator handed down a decision saying that Ntlele must be reinstated retrospectively without loss of benefits and that the company should give him a final written warning valid for nine months.When he reported for duty, he was told to report for night shift at 11pm. At 5pm that night he got a call from Shabalala, the Numsa organiser, to say that the company had applied for a review of the case.

Company takes decision on reviewHowever from then until April 2006 (18 months) the company took no further steps to finalise the review. "I nearly lost hope,” says Ntlele. “I thought that there was something going on that I didn’t know of.

I would communicate with local Numsa leadership who said they would make sure that the case is still on.”At home, conditions were unbearable. “My wife left me, there was no money coming in. I lost respect from my children.”“I could see that the company was applying delaying tactics because it didn’t have grounds to challenge the award.”

Numsa takes company to Labour CourtNumsa took the case to the Labour Court in July 2006. "We demanded that the Labour Court throw out the company’s review application because it had no chance of succeeding.

We wanted the Labour Court to enforce the original award," says Booysen Mashego, national legal officer. “At one stage, the company offered me R40 000, then increased it to R110 000 – I felt that was just too little. Friends tried to encourage me to take it.

But he held out."In 2007, we sent the sheriff to the company to attach property to the value of what the company owed Ntlele + 15,5% interest from 2002 to 2007," says Mashego.The company was also instructed to pay over what they should have contributed to his UIF and provident fund.

What makes me happy is that justice was done,” says Ntlele. His personal life too has changed for the better. He now visits his children even though he is “still living apart” from his family. “My wounds are healing but the scars still remain.

Ntlele started back at work on June 11 2007. But it has not been easy. “The company is trying to make it unbearable for me. They video me going to the toilet, I am the only one that has to put on the time sheet that I am going to the toilet.” Ntlele is adamant that Numsa is not an insurance company.

He urges workers to join Numsa because the union can only “be strong if we are also strong!” And if others land in the same situation as he did, they must “be sure to attend Numsa workshops” because “most companies take advantage of those that don’t have information!”And prepare your family for hard times!

Why they were dismissedThe three shop stewards were dismissed for encouraging workers to go on an illegal strike when management refused to provide transport for workers to attend the funeral of a fellow worker.

The arbitrator found that there was no proof that shop stewards had encouraged workers to go on strike. In fact on the basis of evidence given, shop stewards had, the arbitrator said, "cautioned workers that their action was wrong and illegal, but the workers would not listen."The arbitrator found that shop stewards' dismissal was procedurally fair but substantively unfair.

Fighting unfair dismissalsLiesbet MohutsiwaOn May 31, calls were entering one after another from Numsa members at Super Group congratulating the good work done by Numsa.Ntozelizwe Xilongo from Numsa's Ekurhuleni region was the hero of the day for winning the case of three Numsa shop stewards who were dismissed by Super Group on August 10 2006.

The arbitrator ordered that the company reinstate the dismissed shop stewards and pay them the equivalent of nine months backpay. "I don’t know how to thank comrade Xilongo and the other officials that helped him," said one of the applicants Abide Ludidi on hearing of the victory.

"This is the 16th case with this company and I have won them all," said Ludidi.He then ran down four flights of stairs to make copies of the judgment before running up again with no sign of tiredness!Another applicant, Charles Matyolo, couldn’t believe Ludidi when he told him to report for duty the next day. "Ndikothulela umngwazi Numsa" was the other applicant, Abel Mojela's response.In the company pandemonium broke out at the good news. Forklift drivers blew their horns while others ululated in celebration.

But their celebrations were short-lived. When they reported for work on June 1, management prevented them from working. It said that it was taking the matter on review.

Silumko Nondwangu, general secretary


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