South African Transport and Allied Workers’ Union (SATAWU) calls on the South African National Roads Agency (SANRAL) to intervene in a standoff between one of its contractors and its employees.
Zimele Investment Enterprise is contracted by SANRAL to operate the Heidelberg weighbridge in Johannesburg as well as the Zebediela weighbridge in Polokwane. The company weighs heavy-load vehicles and those transporting dangerous goods to ensure they comply with road regulations to prevent damage to the country’s road and ensure the safety of all road users. This function is a SANRAL competency, which the parastatal has outsourced and as a consequence Zimele is empowered to impound non-complying vehicles.
SANRAL is an arm of government and as such is expected to treat its workers fairly and by extension so are its contractors. However, since Zimele took over the contract last September, workers at the Heidelberg weighbridge have been very unhappy.
More than a year later they are yet to sign employment contracts. Most of them joined the company in 2002 when SANRAL first put the contract out to tender. The contract holder at the time treated workers fairly. However, since Zimele took over, workers complain they have no medical aid or provident fund. When they query this with the employer they are told to source and pay for their own individual schemes. To add insult to injury, the employer refuses to negotiate with the union and as a result workers still have not received their annual pay increase.
The company’s stubborn refusal to negotiate has led workers to down tools. In response, management has implemented a lockout and in a misguided attempt to continue operations, has brought in scab labour without the skills required to operate a weighbridge. Under normal working conditions, the Heidelberg weighbridge inspects vehicles driving into and out of Johannesburg. But now due to the ongoing strike only vehicles leaving Johannesburg are being weighed.
SATAWU calls on SANRAL to intervene in the standoff because the longer it drags on, thousands of road users are put at risk. In future we urge SANRAL to be circumspect when it awards tenders to contractors particularly as the e-tolls contract comes up for renewal in 2019.