Labour brokers become history at Marco Polo South Africa

Thumbs up to Marco Polo South Africa who put workers’ interests ahead of theirs. Who would have thought that the labour broker would become a thing of the past in this company?

Zwiitwaho Raidani interviews the man behind the negotiations, Thuso Mqubane the legal organiser in Ekurhuleni.

Last year you initiated a major change at Marco Polo SA by removing labour brokers.
Tell us about it.

The initiative I took was twofold: I implemented the Cosatu resolution with regards to decent work and I negotiated the removal of a labour broker called TEC that had been causing problems between Numsa and Marco Polo.

Before the introduction of the labour broker, Marco Polo had a workforce of 460 workers. When TEC came into the company in 2003 it employed about 344 workers, including the units or small outlets, and Marco Polo employed 116 workers.

Did you need a strategy to convince the management to stop using a labour broker or did you share a common objective?

I raised the subject to the management about endless complaints by workers regarding unfair dismissals and retrenchments by Marco Polo, who would then rehire those workers as TEC employees.

The owner of TEC had been the human resource manager at Marco Polo during the dismissals. That is why the workforce at Marco Polo had been reduced from 460 to 116.

Employees reported the matter to both the local and regional offices in such high numbers that our regional secretary requested me to intervene and deal with the matter.

This was shortly after the 2010 soccer world cup. In August that year, with the support of shop stewards and members, I put our demands to the company directors. We discussed the following demands with the company management: relationship threats; decent work; labour brokers; and co-operation.

There was an undertaking by management to consider our demands.

Give me specific examples of why you wanted to get rid of labour brokers.
Workers were being dismissed or retrenched and then rehired by the labour broker; and they were forever complaining about being ill-treated.

What challenges have you come across?
The workers employed by TEC were concerned that they might lose their jobs if the labour broker was removed, so we were simultaneously fighting for them to be transferred to Marco Polo. Though only Numsa was participating, a few TEC employees were members of another trade union, Giwusa.

So what happened to the TEC employees after the labour broker was scrapped?
In our last meeting in November last year, we were informed by the Marco Polo manager that, in line with our demands, labour brokers would no longer operate at Marco Polo SA, and all the 344 workers from TEC would be transferred to Marco Polo on a permanent basis with all benefits and services from January 2012.

Now that your work at Marco Polo is done, do you intend to accomplish the same mission with other companies as well?

If I’m assigned to deal with other companies, I will definitely do the same thing.

How would you ensure that labour brokers do not come back?

We confirmed our discussion in writing that in future Marco Polo SA will not employ labour brokers.

What can other organisers do to emulate what you have done?

They must commit themselves to the problem. We should not leave this to legislation. It will never come to our rescue.


Numsa News No 1 April 2012