Workers union threaten to take Gautrain to ConCourt over non-disclosure of financial statements

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JOHANNESBURG, August 13 – The Federation of Unions of South Africa (Fedusa) on Monday threatened to take the Gautrain operator to the Constitutional Court for allegedly refusing to disclose its financial statements.

This comes as the two-week strike by Gautrain workers ended on Monday after a majority of workers accepted a one-year wage offer of an eight percent salary increments made by the Bombela Concession Company, the operator of the high speed commuter rail system.

Dennis George, secretary general of Fedusa, said that it was “constitutionally unfair” for Bombela to not disclose its financials during wage negotiations for unions to see how much was being made by the Gautrain and make necessary demands.

Speaking outside the Gautrain depot in Midrand, George said that Bombela was being disingenuous for arguing that it was prevented from releasing its financial statements by the agreements it has with financial institutions and other social partners.

“We know that in any company, audited financial statements is an important document and we have the right to study the document, and on the basis of that document we can formulate our demands. We also have the right to see how much management are getting from these deals and how much they pay workers at the lowest bottom of the company,” George said.

“So if a company is bargaining in bad faith, where they don’t want to give us the audited financial statements, that puts a hand behind our back and tie us down. So we don’t know exactly how much profits are being made. That is the reason why we are prepared to take it to the Constitutional Court because it is critical for us to respect the rights of workers.”

Gautrain spokesperson Kesagee Nayager said that Bombela had no obligation to make its financial statement public as it is a private company, adding that the company respects the law of the country and “will comply fully with the requirements of the law” if the matter went to court.

“It is also important to point out that [trade union United National Transport Union] Untu only requested the company’s financial statement during the final round of mediated negotiations that took place on Friday, 27 July 2018 — after the strike notice was already issued,” Nayager said.

“This indicates that the Untu’s allegation that it embarked on strike action because the company refused to avail its financial statement is in fact untrue and merely a tactic to justify the reason for the strike, which ultimately was for an unrealistic and unreasonable demand.”

Meanwhile, Gauteng transport member of the executive council (MEC) Ismail Vadi has welcomed the wage agreement reached between Bombela and the Untu to end the two-week strike, saying that the provincial government hopes the situation soon normalises.

A two-week strike by Gautrain workers ended on Monday after workers accepted an offer by the Bombela Concession Company, operator of the high speed commuter rail system, of a one-year wage offer of eight percent salary increments for about 90 percent of employees.

Gautrain workers downed tools on July 30, leaving hundreds of commuters stranded, demanding a 10 percent basic salary hike, R1,600 per month housing allowance, a R20,000 per annum unconditional bonus per employee, an increase in night work transport subsidy of R64 per night shift and a 55 percent contribution towards medical aid by the company.

The strike forced Gautrain to offer a reduced train and bus service.

Briefing workers outside the Gautrain depot in Midrand following negotiations, United National Transport Union (Untu) secretary general Steve Harris said the offer tabled by the company would see workers getting eight percent salary increments backdated to July 15, raising the salary of the lowest-paid worker to R8,500 a month.

Harris said the employer had also agreed to increase the housing allowance from R750 to R900, and had awarded workers an incentive bonus of R5,000 on December 31, followed by another R5,000 bonus at the end of September 2019, depending on the company’s key performance indicators.

The medical aid contribution split will however remain 50/50 between the employer and workers.

Even though some workers still had some concerns about outstanding issues such as the transport subsidy, they gave the union a mandate to sign the wage deal.

Dennis George, secretary general of the Federation of Unions of South Africa (Fedusa), said outstanding issues would be referred back to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA), and that workers would be back to work as soon as they received updates on their working shifts via text message. (ANA)