Getting the chop for eating the chops of others

2014-10-07 00:00

A MORNINGSIDE man might have bitten off more than he could chew after being fired for eating leftover chops.

Now Lucky Mbatha (44) who was fired from the Durban ICC from his position as floor supervisor at the Durban ICC, has taken the world-class facility to the Council for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA), claiming unfair dismissal.

Mbatha believes he was within his rights to eat the pieces of meat because he had, allegedly been granted permission by the chef on duty.

Not so, a disciplinary hearing into his conduct concluded, finding him guilty of theft on March 27, and dismissing him. The matter was heard for the first time at the CCMA on September 8 and 9.

Mbatha was first hired at the Durban ICC as a function supervisor in 1997. He was a floor supervisor at the time of his dismissal, having been at the company for 16 years.

The incident leading to his dismissal was a cocktail party hosted on March 18 in the Arena Main Foyer, Mbatha said.

“We did not get a chance to eat before the function. When the buffet was cleared, I saw the chefs clearing the leftover food to either throw away or take to the canteen, so I asked one of the chefs if it was okay to have something to eat.”

He said he helped himself to two pieces of lamb chops, but did not eat them immediately.

“I took it into my office and left it there to eat later, because I was still busy,” he said.

A week later Mbatha was called into the manager’s office, where he says the managers accused him of being dishonest.

He appeared before an internal disciplinary hearing, where he was charged and found guilty of theft.

“I took the matter to the CCMA, because I feel I was unfairly dismissed and I want my job back,” said Mbatha.

Joe Mkhize from South African Commercial, Catering and Allied Workers Union (SACCAWU) said Mbatha should have been given a warning.

However, Durban ICC acting CEO Nicolette Elia-Beissel said they had strict discipline and control for both security and sanitary handling of food products in all its kitchens.

“Policies and procedures on theft are in place to ensure employees are aware of the measures that will be taken should they be found to be in possession of unauthorised property, including leftover food, on or off Durban ICC premises.”

She said dishonesty and theft were dismissible offences in terms of their employee code of conduct.

Federated Hospitality Association of South Africa’s (Fedhasa) Charles Preece said every employer had house rules.

“In most cases staff are fed at the canteen by the employer. And the rules are very specific that state that they are prohibited to eat outside their meal time at the canteen.”

The matter continues on November 21.

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