A group of 102 staff and teachers at Bishop Bavin private school in Johannesburg, who were dismissed when the school suddenly announced its closure earlier this month, are taking the school to the Labour Court.
They say the school’s decision to close is “unlawful and unfair in the extreme”.
The group, represented by advocate Leslie Sedibe, is made up of administration staff, teachers, and catering and ground staff. They are demanding they either be reinstated or compensated for their abrupt dismissal.
They were left in the cold after Bishop Bavin closed its doors due to financial issues earlier this month.
In court papers filed at the Johannesburg Labour Court, Odette Jones, a former employee at Bishop Bavin, said the school terminated the staff’s contracts without the required notice and without following the Labour Relations Act, leaving them without benefits.
“I have been advised that the school’s approach in terminating the applicants’ contracts of employment is, in the circumstances, legally indefensible.
“More importantly, there has been no compliance, at all, by the school with sections […] of the [Labour Relations Act] LRA, prior to the termination by the school of the applicants’ contracts of employments,” Jones said.
They are demanding that the school reinstate their employment until it complies with fair procedure laid out in the law.
Alternatively, they demand that the school compensate them in a manner determined by the court.
This demand was put to the school before the staff members went to court.
However, according to the papers, the school “ignored” them and “did not even see fit to respond to the letter containing the demand”.
Left in the cold
In court papers, the staff emphasised the impact the school’s decision to close had on parents and learners.
“[W]e wish to place on record that we have been approached by a significant number of parents on behalf of the children who are learners at the school, who have similarly expressed their deep hurt by the callous manner in which the decision was taken by the Board and the impact of such a decision on the rights of the children under the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa.”
They said they were consulting with parents and children “who feel violated”, and will give directions on a plan of action to represent their interests following the meeting.
In a letter to staff, the executive head of the school, Roger Cameron, explains that the school’s board took a “unanimous resolution” to dissolve the business of the school, effective from 10 June 2020.
A week later, the school placed the management and closure of the school in the hands of liquidators, who would “wind-up the business in terms of the Insolvency Act”.
Cameron added that contracts were terminated from 11 June and employees will not receive benefits, except for the provision of temporary accommodation for those already living on the property.