We just concluded an agreement on behalf of 220 employees of the South African Post Office.
These employees were formerly employment by the Courier Freight Group (CFG) which was purchased by SAPO whilst in provisional liquidation in 2016.
SAPO undertook to place all of our clients who are former employees of CFG on the same terms and conditions as its own employees but had not done so since taking them over in 2016.
A dispute was referred to the CCMA as an unfair labour practice dispute on the basis that SAPO had not dealt with our clients equitably.
The transaction itself was extremely complicated. There was an agreement which was drawn which was referred to by the moniker (Section 197 (6) agreement) which detailed the transfer of the employees in terms of the Labour Relations Act when a company or organisation is taken over as a going concern. However, that agreement was subject to the Minister of Communication consenting to the sale of the CFG out of liquidation.
Despite attempts being made by representatives of SAPO to obtain the consent of the Minister to the transaction, this had not taken place.
As a consequence and for the past three years our clients have been working at SAPO alongside fellow employees who were SAPO employees but on a different cost to company basis. They received fewer benefits and were also not members of the SAPO Pension Fund but rather remained members of the CFG Provident Fund, without the ability to even withdraw their funds.
Our clients’ also were not able to obtain full copies of the transfer agreement as well as the sale agreement. Despite repeated requests which had been made on their behalf by their then union and also directly by their own internal representative.
Once we had obtained a date for arbitration we immediately issued a subpoena to obtain same. In meetings representatives of SAPO were made them aware of the disparity of payment and benefits which existed amongst a substantial number of their workforce.
The agreement which has been reached and which is now a settlement agreement at the CCMA is binding on the parties and requires that SAPO review each of our clients’ contract of employment and conditions of service to ensure that they are placed on the same or similar terms as those on which their colleagues are employed within SAPO.
This will benefit them immensely. The fringe benefits which SAPO provides as a value of the total cost to company packages is greater than that which our clients have been paid.
In order for the claim to be successful, it was necessary to secure as many applicants as possible so as to secure the number of claimants necessary to persuade SAPO to view the matter seriously.
It is difficult to estimate what the cost to SAPO will be of reviewing and amending the contracts of employment. It is, however, a fair outcome bearing in mind the terms of the transfer agreement and the basis on which SAPO had intended to assume our client’s into their own business.