By Thabo Monyela
TZANEEN – Visagie sawmill workers requested a meeting with their employer Johann Visagie to discuss their grievances which include, constant late payments, UIF- TEARS, abnormal working hours, unpaid overtime, minimum wage, and working uniforms. However, their employer denied meeting the 32 employees to listen to their grievances.
Nine of the workers undertook what is alleged to be a “stoppage” to go and seek union intervention in Tzaneen town.
Meanwhile, National Transport Movement (NTM) Union representative, Sibongile Shikwambana amicable represented the workers. Two days after the nine employees returned to work they were charged with gross insubordination and attended a hearing.
Tzaneen voice has learned through a union representative that the hearing did not follow any procedure in terms of labour laws and further informed that the NTM union representative was chased out of the hearing for what is alleged to be causing unnecessary conflict.
Tzaneen voice has further learned that Visagie lost a laptop at the Sawmill and accused the workers of stealing it. However, it is alleged that no case of theft was opened nor did the internal investigation conducted, however, he decided that he is going to deduct R1000.00 from the workers’ salary to pay for the lost laptop.
Tzaneen voice has learned from a well-placed source that the employees of Visagie Sawmill are working for R16,20 per day as opposed to the R20.76 in line with the labour laws, workers are working for unpaid overtimes and weekends, they do not have uniform and safety boots and constant late payments “we are forced to go to the toilet at the bush because there are no toilets for the workers, there are times where we would work until midnight but we do not get paid for that,” anonymous mentioned.
The source further said that there is no basic salary at the firm as their salary keeps on changing every month and they are forced to load a Motor Truck with timbers to its capacity or else they will not get paid.
The nine workers who appeared before what is alleged to be an “unlawful hearing” in December were dismissed in the first week of January 2021 for what the employer calls gross insubordination.
” We are taking Visagie Sawmill to Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA), the chances of the dismissed workers winning a case are 90 %. Visagie does not obey labour laws. workers of Visagie are being extremely exploited ” Shikwambana of NTM union said.
Tzaneen voice contacted the employer Mr. Johanna Visagie for comments and he referred us to his legal team Dannie Swanepoel of Thomas & Swanepoel Inc, however, there was no response at the time of publishing.