Fighting an uphill battle at GAYATRI PAPER MILLS (PTY) LTD, but getting there!
It became evident in 2016 that management favoured CEPPWAWU above UASA. We managed to increase our membership from thirty one (31) to 83. As we managed to make remarkable progress as far as restoring the member’s trust and to grow our membership, we held numerous monthly meetings with members to journey with them on their struggle towards becoming the majority union. We need to stop the employer from side-lining UASA members when important decisions about their work related matters are discussed and agreed upon at the plant level.
In June 2016 the minister of labour extended the Bargaining Council agreement to non-parties. Gayatri Paper Mills didn’t want to fully comply with the collective agreement and applied for an exemption on some of the clauses. Thanks to the vigilance of our members, we established that the employer has applied for two clauses of the collective agreement, but still isn’t fully complying with the agreement, specifically insofar as wage increment are concerned. The employer deliberately chose to give an 8% increase to CEPPWAWU members with the exclusion of our members. UASA tried everything in its power to engage and reason with the employer to stop this form this form of discrimination against our members.
The employer wasn’t interested to listen to us. It became clear to us that this has been a plan of the employer to confuse and frustrate our members to re-join CEPPWAWU. But the plan failed. We were on a high alert and always there on the ground journeying with our members as well as advising and guiding them throughout. The employer’s refusal to extend the increment to our members including the non-compliance on other clauses contained in the collective agreement left UASA with no other option but to declare the dispute with the bargaining council.
The matter was heard by the senior commissioner Mr Ravuku from the CCMA on Wednesday, 26 October 2016 were the settlement agreement was reached that the employer should give all employees an increased back dated to July 2016. After the agreement was reached, the company, through its HR manager requested that parties meet as a matter of urgent to try and resolves any issues the union feel the employer isn’t fully complying with in terms of the collective agreement. Consequently, our members, including the unorganized employees, were then paid their increment back dated from July 2016. This has been a huge victory for the union.
The meeting between UASA and Gayatri Paper Mills management then sat again on 2 November 2016 @ 10H00am. All matters around the Sunday and Public Holiday numeration were deliberated on but the employer insisted that the method the employer is using to remunerate employees was the correct one. Even the Department of Labour has confirmed the employer is wrong during one of the inspections and UASA wasn’t convinced about the whole matter. We then escalated the matter to the bargaining council’s agent responsible. We are still waiting for the bargaining council to revert back to us.
UASA has again declared a dispute with the CCMA with regard to our majority status at the company and the parties eventually met at CCMA Benoni on Thursday, 24 November 2016. The where parties couldn’t agree or resolved the matter and subsequently the certificate for a strike was issued and still trying to once more engage with the employer together with employees on how best can we resolve the matter and any failure would the result in UASA applying for a strike.
The NBCWPS exemption committee met for the first time on 30 November, 2016 where it was then realised that due to the incompetence of the bargaining council agent responsible for the matter, the employer was made to complete the wrong forms/papers which resulted in the whole process to be stopped. The parties then agreed that one of the CCMA’s senior commissioners should be engaged to advise on the process and approach to be followed. The parties agreed that the bargaining council agent responsible should issue the employer with the correct documents in the meantime so as to speed up the process and also ensure that the commissioner from the CCMA is available to assist the parties in the New Year. The parties will now meet on Monday, 16 January 2017 @ 10H00am for the briefing and guidance by the CCMA commissioner. The parties aim is to deal with the company’s exemption application not later than 30 January 2017.
It is with a heavy heart to report that in the month of December 2016, two of our members were dismissed by the employer. During one of their year-end party/ function employees were given a huge amounts of alcohol to consume which resulted in UASA and CEPPWAWU members physically fighting each other. During disciplinary hearings two of CEPPWAWU shop stewards admitted to have attacked one of our most active shop steward, namely Chuene Chokoe. The company, however, proceeded to dismissed the two UASA members and leave the two CEPPWAWU members who admitted to have attacked our member(s). UASA declared the dispute on behalf of the two and on the other side the employer is furious that UASA has jumped the gun by declaring the disputes as the employer is still busy with their internal investigation as the two dismissed members have lodged an appeal but our position has been that we are guided by the prescribed rules of our laws in terms of the time-frames in referring the disputes.