Unions opposing the closure of Unitrans Passenger’s bus operations appear to have won the first round in their legal battle.
This after the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) suggested during arbitration proceedings that the company’s retrenchment process was initiated in bad faith.
The company has been given until Wednesday to answer several questions put to them by workers probing the decision made by the company to shut down its bus operations, taking around 700 jobs down with it.
Unitrans announced earlier this month that its subsidiaries, Greyhound, Citiliner, Mega Bus and Mega Coach, would be closing down on 14 February, citing financial decline as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Unions responded with immediate angrily, accusing the company of choosing profit over livelihoods and suggesting the company had not carefully considered alternative options. Greyhound, which was set to shed the bulk of the jobs, was forced into arbitration with the CCMA after talks with unions came to a head.
According to the Democratised Transport Logistics and Allied Workers Union (Detawu), during proceedings this week, the CCMA commissioner pointed out that if the decision to close operations was indeed set in stone, the employer was effectively engaging in the Section 189 (retrenchment) process in bad faith.
It was later was resolved that the company would respond to questions in writing on this decision by 17 February (Wednesday). The questions included why the holding group had not considered selling Magic Transfers and Mega Bus as going concerns along with the workforce, given that the company planned to transfer 167 revenue earning vehicles to the its Mozambique operation.
“Detawu stands by its initial position; we absolutely oppose the closure of Greyhound and retrenchment of workers. We call upon Greyhound management to seriously reconsider their stance and reverse their decision to close down the company,” said the union in a statement.
During a sitting of proceedings on Tuesday, Detawu pointed out that the original Section 189 notice had conflated
three separate employers (Greyhound, Magic Transfers and Mega Bus) into one. This, they said, was irregular as each operation had to be scrutinised separately in order to interrogate the rationale for closure.
The commissioner agreed and resolved that the notice would be deemed to have been issued on 15 February, and would therefore lapse on 15 April, according to the 60-day stipulation in the Labour Relations Act.
Proceedings were expected to continue on Wednesday.