Dismissed workers thrown deeper into poverty

Langverwacht Landscaping workers say they have asked the CCMA to intervene in their dispute. All photos by Vincent Lali

The workers say that they now live in poverty after they asked for what is due to them and for better working conditions.

Dozens of angry general workers who had been dismissed from their jobs demonstrated outside the Magistrates Offices in Stellenbosch on Friday.

They sang “Peter causes us worry” and carried placards that read:  “Peter must fall” and “We want them out now.” Their former employer, Pieter Colyn, is the owner of Langverwacht Landscaping in Stellenbosch.

Community leader, Zola Ndalasi, said the protesters went to the court to support 40 general workers who were arrested after they protested at Colyn’s premises in Stellenbosch.

“We are here to demand the release of the general workers who were arrested while they were demanding their monies on the premises of their employer last month,” he said.

Ndalasi said Colyn dismissed the workers after they demanded their UIF monies. “According to my knowledge, the employer must follow all the procedures before dismissing the workers,” said Ndalasi.

Some workers were last paid R147 in April, he said.

Ndalasi said: “Other workers never received even a cent. When the workers asked about their May and June salaries, their employer told them he had not received any money from government.” Moreover, Colyn said he intended to pay “new recruits” with the only money he had.

When Ndalasi reported the matter to the police, he found out that Colyn had a court interdict preventing the workers from entering his premises.

Ndalasi said the workers had opened a case of unfair dismissal at CCMA on 25 June.

In an emailed statement, Pieter Colyn, said that he had applied for TERS UIF funding for their non-essential staff but there was a delay from UIF.

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“The Department of Labour failed to finalize the TERS UIF payments in time for the company to pay staff salaries at the end of April 2020. In order to mitigate the delay, the company was only in a position to advance a portion of their salaries to staff while awaiting the TERS UIF payout,” said Colyn.

“By 5 May 2020 the TERS UIF funds were received and paid over to staff immediately,” he continued.

The workers embarked on a strike demanding better working conditions and they were interdicted by the company and later arrested.

The workers are still waiting for the CCMA to tell them when their complaint about unfair dismissal will be heard, he said.

The dismissed workers say they now live in poverty because they asked for better working conditions

Yolisa Lokhwe, who stays with her mother and sister in Khayamandi, said she struggles to survive after her dismissal.

“We don’t have food at home. We ask our relatives for food. Our kids don’t even have winter clothes,” she said.

Lokhwe said she battles to pay her clothing accounts. “The shop managers say I must produce a letter of dismissal as proof that I no longer work, but our boss never gave me such a letter,” she said.

Lokhwe said her she has to obey the court order that prevents her and her colleagues from entering her boss’s premises. “Our boss doesn’t want us anywhere near his place, so I can’t get the letter of dismissal,” she said.

Thobela Nxayimpi stays in Khayamandi with two kids and her two sisters. She rents a space for R300 and buys electricity for R150 monthly.

“I last received money from my boss in May. Now I can’t pay my accounts and monthly rent,” she said.

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Nxayimpi said she desperately wants her UIF money to tide her over while she is still out of work.

The workers used to earn R2,700 per month, she said.

The 40 workers that were arrested were released on free bail.

Asanda Ntshinga, stays with his siblings in Nkanini, Khayamandi: “I struggle to survive. I have to phone my parents and ask them to give me money for food. Sometimes they also have no money as they live on social grants,” he said.

Advocate Anele Mbenyana, who represented the workers, said the court released the 40 general workers on free bail.

They will reappear in the same court on 18 August, he said.

Comment from the Unemployed Insurance Fund will be added when received.

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