Lobel’s in retrenchment furore
LOBEL’S Bread Holdings is embroiled in a retrenchment furore with its employees who are adamant that the bread-maker has not followed proper procedures stipulated under the Labour Act.
The company has short-listed several employees for compulsory retrenchment and offered them a package in the form of three months notice pay and one month salary for every two years served. It also undertook to settle their leave pay as well as paying for medical aid for three months up to June.
In its letters to the affected workers, Lobel’s alleged that the retrenchment packages followed negotiations with the works’ council conducted on April 1.
The letters bear the signature of the company’s human resources manager.
But a number of workers have refused to sign the retrenchment letters saying minutes of the purported works council meeting were manipulated and did not reflect their views on the retrenchment plan.
The employees’ legal representative, Gift Maoneka, of the Baking Industry Workers’ Union, said the retrenchment process contradicted the law.
Maoneka said under the Labour Act, any company wishing to embark on compulsory retrenchment must first notify the employees through a works council meeting.
The employees and the employer would then justify the need for retrenchment.
If there is no need for retrenchment, then other measures to avoid retrenchment could be recommended and implemented.
Should these measures fail to yield any meaningful results, Maoneka said the company must call for another works council meeting and inform the prospective retrenches on the state of affairs.
“The company then gives three months for negotiations for a retrenchment package. If the parties involved fail to agree on a package then they refer to the statutory minimum two weeks’ salary per every year served,” said Maoneka.
“So for Lobel’s to push all these stages within a fortnight renders the plan illegal and void. Lobel’s started negotiating on a Friday and within three days offer letters had been issued and this directly contradicts the procedures prescribed by law,” he said.
The Baking Industry Workers’ Union has since written to the Lobel’s informing the company that they would challenge the process.
“Please be advised that the affected employees intend to challenge the process on the basis that there is no need to retrench. It is our understanding that the company can easily absorb the intended retrenchees, the majority of who are women. There is therefore no basis for embarking on a discriminatory retrenchment process especially considering that you are hiring staff in other departments. There is no evidence of implementation or an attempt of any measures to avoid retrenchment, ” the letter reads in part.
Contacted for comment, Lobel’s acting chief executive officer, Sindiso Masuku, confirmed the company was retrenching but dismissed allegations of irregularities in the process.
“The company has restructured and streamlined its operations and the employees whose positions have been affected are the ones that are being retrenched in terms of the law.
“Lobel’s Bread has given notice to the works council of its intention to retrench and the reasons thereof.
“The affected employees have now been invited to attend meetings to negotiate their retrenchment packages. The invitation letter is clear that they are entitled to bring a representative of their own choice to the retrenchment meeting if they wish,” he said.- By Alois Vinga
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