Sacked Master’s Office workers await answers

2010-11-18 00:00

WHAT about us, ask 19 dismissed contract workers in the Master’s Office of the high court, who have been locked in a three-year arbitration battle to get their jobs back.

National Health and Allied Wor­kers’ Union (Nehawu) organiser Sabelo Kunene was pleased to learn that Justice Minister Jeff Radebe had launched his anti-corruption drive in Pietermaritzburg.

The minister said this was because his office was inundated with requests for intervention in cases of corruption and abuse of power in the city’s Master’s Office.

However, Kunene and the dismissed workers are disappointed that Radebe has not yet addressed their claim that they are victims of corruption and abuse of power.

The workers had approached the Justice Department with their grievances earlier this year.

Dr Jabulani Mzaliya, special advisor in the department, facilitated a meeting in August with a representative from the human resources department in the National Masters Office, Dick Muzwayine.

The meeting was held in the local Nehawu offices and included two other national department representatives.

Muzwayine was to have reported back by October 12, but to date they have had no response, although Kunene has made numerous calls to find out what is happening.

The workers say they have been locked in a David and Goliath battle since New Year’s Eve in 2007, when they were dismissed without any notice.

Most had worked in the Master’s Office for five years and more.

The workers say they were surprised to find they were replaced by contract workers hired through a labour broker.

Many of the new recruits had absolutely no experience, they said, which created backlogs and poor service that was widely reported in the local media.

The workers also queried what they called the fruitless expenditure of the Master’s Office in retaining the services of a private advocate to represent it in an arbitration matter.

They won their case in the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration in August 2009 and commissioner Pat Stilwell ordered the local Master’s Office to reinstate them within five days and pay them for loss of earnings.

The local office declined to accept the ruling as the private advocate it had hired claimed she had not received notice of the hearing.

The matter has since dragged on and the workers have lost their homes and cars and have to depend on the goodwill of friends and family to survive.

Justice Department spokesperson Tladi Tladi undertook to respond to The Witness’s questions about the matter.

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