Gautrain workers’s battle is not over yet: They want to see financial statements

16 Aug 2018

By   and PBM

The wage agreement between Gautrain workers and the operating company of the rapid rail link service, Bombela, is only the beginning of workers’ involvement in how the company is run, says the general secretary of the Federation of Unions of South Africa (FEDUSA) Dennis George.

The unions, the United National Transport Union (UNTU) and FEDUSA, are still demanding that Bombela disclose its financial statements. They have threatened to take this demand to court.

This is after the unions reached a wage agreement with Bombela, putting an end to the two-week strike.  Key features of the agreement are:

  • Employees will get an 8% basic salary increase with the lowest basic salary increased from R6,800 to R8,500.
  • The housing allowance will be increased from R750 to R900 per month. Other allowances will be increased by 8%.
  • Workers will also receive a R5,000 guaranteed incentive bonus at the end of the year and a second incentive payment of up to R5,000 in September 2019, depending on the Gautrain’s performance.

George said the unions were satisfied with the final agreement but said, “We have not given up on this issue of transparency … We want to see those financial statements even if we have to take it to the Constitutional Court because right now we are just [guessing] and we don’t know if it [the agreement] is fair or not.”

According to the Labour Relations Act, if there is a dispute about disclosure of information between unions or employees and the employer, the matter should be referred to the CCMA (Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration), which will determine the risk of disclosing the information.

If the CCMA decides that the disclosure of the information outweighs the potential risk, it can order the employer to disclose the information on terms which limit the harm to both employer and employee.

The CCMA intervened in the negotiations but it did not order Bombela to disclose its financial statements.

“Only the CCMA would know why it has neglected to order Bombela Operating Company to provide the union with financial statements … On Monday, with the assistance of two senior commissioners of the CCMA, the union demanded the financial statements. Once again, it was refused,” said Sonja Carstens, spokesperson of UNTU.

Kesagee Nayager, spokesperson of the Gautrain, said Bombela was a private company and it had no obligation to make its financial statements public. When GroundUp asked why Bombela could not make its financial statement available to the unions and not the public, Nayager said Bombela could not comment further.

George told GroundUp that during negotiations, Bombela said it had signed agreements with other investors that did not allow it to disclose its financial statements.

“But we are arguing that it is a constitutional right for us to have access to that information so that we are not negotiating blindly, that is why we will take this matter to the Constitutional Court if we have to,” said George. He said the unions would be filing an application in court.

This article was first published in GroundUp. Minor changes were applied at the top by ProBonoMatters to emphasise the financial statement disclosure angle.

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