Unscrupulous Chinese factory sued for arrear wages and pension payments

It was never going to be easy stopping a Free State, Thabanchu-based Chinese-owned sweatshop cashing in on vulnerable and exploited metalworkers.

It took almost five years claiming about R600 000 arrear payments on behalf of 100 dismissed metalworkers who were owed in arrear wages, pension, unemployment insurance, provident fund and other levies.

The payments for destitute workers, is estimated to about a million rands including interest rates at prescribed rates.

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) has successfully applied for an injunction against New Sun Industrial to reinstate Matlhaku Mabote and 99 others who were unfairly dismissed after embarking on a strike following repeated refusal by the company to pay arrear wages and legislated employee and employer contributions.

The dismissals took place on December 10, 2003 after the first unprotected strike over failure by the employer to make good on payment of arrear wages which were assessed in terms of the Metal Engineering Industry Bargaining Council agreement.

In sheer desperate, employees who had not been paid their wages since June 2003, spontaneously undertook to “withhold their labour,” fearing that they would lose their jobs without arrear payments since the mother company Enamel New world had shut down its operations and its employees were summarily relieved of their jobs.

Numsa salutes the Labour Court order for reinstatement and payments of the workers’ wages who have been so resilient against all the odds.

Mr. Wang, the company owner was reported to the bargaining council for his devious business practices and refusal to pay industry minimum wages.

And the company was granted exemption from July 2002 to June 2003 to pay only 40% of the bargaining council minimum wages, but the company failed to pay its employees, including channeling contributions in respect of UIF, provident fund and other levies to the bargaining council.

As if the company was bleeding to death, the bargaining council further ordered management to pay 60% of the industry minimum wages from July 1, 2003 to June 2004, but failed to honour the agreement.

This forced employees to go into another strike in February 2004 which resulted to their ultimate dismissals.

The Labour Court proved beyond doubt that the factory owner was unable to mend his ways and ordered that he reinstate individual employees and pay arrear wages and pension fund contributions on November 26, 2007.

Dismissed employees, except five deceased workers, were entitled to 60% bargaining council minimum wages, estimated to the value of R600 000 excluding interests on prescribed rates.

Although the judgment is fair it does not come closer to ensuring that the company owner mends his ways by refraining from ill treating and exploiting workers.

Numsa national legal officer Booysen Mashigo expressed the union’s gratitude to the fact that the ruling also considered deceased estates claims. The registrar was ordered to set a date for executors of the deceased estates to bring claim against the employer.

For further information contact:

Mziwakhe Hlangani, Numsa national spokesperson

Cell phone: 082 9407116

E-mail : mziwakheh@numsa.org.za


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