The banning of labour brokers by transport and logistics company Transnet has received a lukewarm reception from metalworkers’ union Numsa.
The company announced on Tuesday it had absorbed more than 300 workers into its terminals at ports in East London, Port Elizabeth and Ngqura.
“We are pleased to announce that with effect from Monday, 1 June 2014, all employees at our terminals in the Eastern Cape are now employed directly by the company, either on a full-time or fixed-term basis,” it said in a statement, released on behalf of Transnet Group chief executive officer Brian Molefe.
Transnet took a decision more than six months ago to do away with labour brokers “for those of our colleagues who work in our core operations across the company”.
“This ground-breaking decision will ensure that all our colleagues are treated equally with dignity and respect when it comes to employment practices in our company.”
But the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) has accused the company of “absorbing” staff called to fill in for striking Numsa members.
The largest Cosatu affiliate has been on strike at the Ngqura Container Terminal near Port Elizabeth since April 25.
The union members at the port – about 400 of them – are demanding that those hired through labour brokers be employed permanently.
They are also unhappy about the new shift system for crane operators which was “unilaterally implemented by management”; and they want the transport subsidy between them and their colleagues at the main port of Port Elizabeth to be harmonised.
Numsa Eastern Cape secretary Phumzile Nodongwe said: “The people they claim to have absorbed were called in during the strike. I would not say this is a win for us because our people are still left out in the cold. They are yet to be absorbed permanently.”
Nodongwe, however, said the banning of labour brokers by the parastatal could be a “positive stance that the company has taken because it’s been our position that they must do away with this system” which labour federation Cosatu has likened to a form of modern day slavery.
Nodongwe said a general meeting was scheduled for yesterday (Wednesday) afternoon where “we will take a formal position on the matter”.
The government passed a law last year to restrict the employment of labour brokers by employees from six months to three months.