Boycott Putco for its war on workers! – NUMSA

Union says this matter goes back to 2022 when hundreds of workers embarked on a work stoppage

NUMSA calls on the community to boycott Putco for its war on workers!

19 February 2024

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) calls on commuters to boycott Putco for waging war on workers. Putco is mistreating workers who have been placed on suspension. At least 120 workers are suspended by Putco and the management is treating them inhumanely, by violating their dignity while they are on suspension. These workers are suspended because Putco tried to withhold increases, which rightly belong to workers.

This matter goes back to 2022 when hundreds of workers embarked on a work stoppage, because the Putco management refused to pay the wage increase of 6% and the bonus which was due to workers. Putco had applied for an exemption from implementing the 6% wage increase. Its application was dismissed by the Exemptions committee because the committee was able to prove that Putco could afford to pay.

Putco’s refusal to pay the increases provoked workers into withdrawing their labour, and then they attempted to dismiss 1000 of them. NUMSA intervened, and succeeded in preventing the mass dismissals. However, whilst we succeeded in getting the majority of them re-instated, some of them are currently undergoing disciplinary processes with the CCMA. Putco provoked workers into withdrawing their labour because of their greed. Now it is continuing its reign of terror on these workers by treating them inhumanely, whilst they are on suspension. It was the greedy selfish behaviour of the Managing Director, Franco Pisapia that sparked the work stoppage. It is shameless for them to get money from the state through generous subsidies, and, at then at the same time, to withhold money from poor workers! It is no secret that Putco pays peanuts, which is why their behaviour is unforgivable.

Below is a breakdown of how Putco is violating the dignity of workers:

1.     In any other company if you are suspended you sit at home and attend the hearings when required. But in this case, Putco is forcing suspended employees to go and sit at the depots for every day of their suspension. Workers in Tshwane are forced to sit at the Zandfontein depo and workers in Soweto have to sit at the one in Dobsonville. At the Zandfontein depo workers have described the place as a ‘cage’ or a prison because they are surrounded by a wire fence and their movements in and out are restricted by security guards.

2.     The area where workers are kept only has one entrance and exit which is guarded by security guards at all times. Workers are unable to go in and out as they please. The conditions where they are forced to stay resemble a prison because workers are forced to remain in a confined space and they are not allowed to interact with other employees on the premises.

3.     Workers are not allowed to use decent toilets of the company. Instead they must use the portable toilets provided by Putco. In our previous statement, NUMSA exposed the fact that Putco management was forcing workers to use ‘bucket toilets,’ but after we exposed them in the media, they provided portable toilets.

4.     Putco has also made the very unreasonable demand that if a worker is sick and cannot come to the depo and produces a sick note, that doctor must provide an affidavit with the details of that workers illness. So basically the Doctor must disclose the details of the workers condition to Putco management in an affidavit, so that they can make a determination if the illness is genuine or not!  This is unheard of and it is a gross abuse of power! If workers fail to provide the affidavits then Putco will not pay them for the days when they were sick or it may even dismiss them. At least 15 workers have been dismissed by Putco in this way. Putco is clearly abusing this process and seeking to unfairly dismiss even more workers. What they are doing is also a gross violation of dignity and privacy. They have no right to demand such personal information from workers. They are behaving like prison wardens and they have grossly exceeded all the boundaries of what is a reasonable demand for an employer. We have instructed our attorneys to intervene on this issue, particularly because they have issued letters to employees threatening to withhold their pay if they do not produce the affidavits.

5.     Gauteng is currently experiencing a blistering heat wave and it is extremely hot, and yet workers are forced to drink water from a Jojo tank which sits in the sun. The depo has decent toilets and water, but the suspended workers are not allowed to access the same facilities as other workers, this includes the use of a decent toilet. They are forced to drink water from the Jojo Tank and to use portable toilets.

6.     NUMSA won an application at the CCMA against Putco where they attempted to reduce the number of workers who were going to give evidence at the hearings. NUMSA is the majority union and it is representing over 120 workers who are suspended. In order to adequately defend them, our officials must be able to lead evidence and cross examine witnesses as part of the process. Putco attempted to get the CCMA to force NUMSA to only allow a limited number of people to provide evidence, which is an issue we have rejected. This is a clear attempt by the bus company to prevent workers from adequately defending themselves and it is an attempt to undermine the case. This will make it easier for the CCMA to make negative findings against them because the union would failed to defend them. NUMSA has to be able to properly defend workers, in order to prevent any further dismissals. The bus company has argued that the hearings are costly which is why it wanted to reduce witnesses. But what Putco is actually doing is to interfere in a disciplinary matter, with the aim of sabotaging the case for workers, so that they can be dismissed.

It seems as if Putco is doing this because they know they have a weak case. Therefore, they want to find ways to dismiss workers, whilst violating their right to a fair disciplinary process.

Thankfully the CCMA saw right through this and has dismissed their application.

Putco management is not just greedy, but they are also cruel and inhumane. They do not see workers as human beings. Putco has benefitted enormously from the generosity of the state through subsidies. They also benefitted during Apartheid and even after. It seems the brutality of the Apartheid state is part of its legacy which is why it treats workers so cruelly. Putco gets guaranteed subsidies form the state with our tax money, but the owners are constantly trying to rip-off employees.

This is why NUMSA is calling on commuters to boycott Putco. NUMSA will be marching to the offices of Putco on Friday the 23rd of February. As part of the campaign because the greedy management is cruel and inhumane. Putco is at war with workers and they must be stopped.

For more details on this story and to see footage of how Putco violates the dignity of workers, you can watch the full breakdown on the NUMSA Youtube channel, Workers Power”. The link is below:


Aluta continua!

The struggle continues!

Issued by Irvin Jim, NUMSA General Secretary, 19 February 2024