Retusa claims stevedores threatened with violence at Durban port

Revolutionary Transport Union of South Africa (Retusa) last week called out both Transnet and stevedoring companies for exploiting stevedores at the Port of Durban.

In a recent statement, the transport union raised concerns about stevedoring companies’ intent to disregard labour laws – particularly the Basic Conditions of Employment Act, the Labour Relations Act and the Occupational Health and Safety Act – as well as Transnet’s lack of awareness of these issues of exploitation.

“The pacifying claim they make is that they will investigate all the allegations and get back to us,” said Retusa general secretary, JV Dube. “To date, no response has been given while the issues were raised in August 2018 and no investigation findings have been reported.”

He noted that stevedoring companies had refused to meet with the union.

According to Dube, since Retusa raised concerns over the issue of permanent employment for staff placed by labour brokers, stevedoring companies have begun to harass workers, victimising the union’s members and threatening workers with dismissals. Additionally, some of the union’s shop stewards have received tip-offs of alleged assassination plots and weapons caches kept by a stevedoring company in the changing rooms.

“Our view is that this cache is specifically to commit crimes against our members who are merely fighting for their rights,” said Dube.

Retusa communications liaison officer, Philani Zungu, told FTW Online that the union’s suspicions about the weapons cache were based on previous experience where some of the stevedoring companies had used a form of violence to push away employees not affiliated with their company to make sure they were the only ones working in the ports.

“They’re currently using the same force they have used previously to threaten and intimidate our members with some of our members being told to their face that they will be “dealt with” by the bosses of these stevedoring companies,” he said.

Last month labour tensions between the stevedoring community and Transnet seemed to have calmed down as Retusa held meetings to solve labour issues with Transnet Port Terminals (TPT). However, Zungu told FTW Online that these meetings had not yielded any fruitful results as TPT was trying to distance itself from the situation.

“We are currently taking our dispute to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) if only to ensure that if we decide to pursue strike action that it is protected,” he added. “We are also still trying to engage with stevedoring companies, and while not all companies are improving their labour conditions – especially Maverick – there has been some progress with companies such as Rainbow Marine.”

With regard to stevedoring company Maverick, Zungu said that the company had not responded to any communications from Retusa since early 2018 and had now started large scale dismissals. Around 20 employees have already been let go.

He said that these employees had been working for the company for over two years but Maverick had retained them on a recurring two-month contract and therefore claimed they were not permanent employees.

“These dismissals seek to instil fear and they circumvent the Constitutional Court judgement on the Assign vs Numsa case that stipulates that employees working in temporary services for three months or more will be deemed to be employees of the client,” added Dube. “Meanwhile these stevedoring companies have been given three-year contracts by Transnet.”

Zungu said that he believed there would be a resolution soon but if not, the union would decide on whether or not to pursue arbitration once the case was heard by the CCMA.

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