Response from bulk bag factory

2017-12-20 06:01
PHOTO: sourcedThe management at a bulk bag and webbing manufacturing factory at Mkhondeni responded to complaints raised by workers about their working conditions.

PHOTO: sourcedThe management at a bulk bag and webbing manufacturing factory at Mkhondeni responded to complaints raised by workers about their working conditions.

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STAFF at a bulk bag and webbing manufacturing factory in Mkhondeni approached Echo with complaints about their working conditions. They included pay, leave and contractual issues which the staff said the company’s management had failed to address adequately.

The Echo ran a story last week with the heading “Still no resolution to factory workers’ issues” outlining the claims made by the workers.

At the time of going to press the company’s Gerrie van Zyl had not responded to an inquiry by Echo. Van Zyl did, however, respond later saying the inquiry made by this newspaper was the first time the company’s management or HR had received the complaints from the staff.

“We adhere strictly to the BCEA [Basic Conditions of Employment Act]. Because it [plant in Mkhondeni] is a start-up operation the personnel resources are limited to keep costs down. There is, however, an admin clerk, supervisor and floor manager available at all times. The CEO of the company also spends four to five days a week there,” Van Zyl said.Regarding workers’ claim that they are paid the normal hourly rate even when working on public holidays, Van Zyl said this is “misinformation”. “The only public holiday since the company’s inception was the 25th of September, which they were paid double time for as per BCEA,” Van Zyl said.

However, the workers said they only received pay for that holiday in last week’s wage.

Workers also complained that they don’t get 15 days annual leave, a claim Van Zyl again disputed. “Employees are only entitled to the pro rata leave as per BCEA. Their leave pay gets paid in December 7, 2017. This information was relayed to them more than two weeks ago,” he said.

Van Zyl said it is a half truth that workers on the same hourly rate and who have worked the same number of hours are sometimes paid different wages. “In September we installed a fingerprint clock-in system and the clock-ins get uploaded via the internet to our head office in Gauteng. This is where all the wages are done. We are using the accredited VIP wage system, thus the only reason for wages to differ is if there is a problem with your [workers’] clock-ins.” Van Zyl added it is the responsibility of each worker who has a problem with the clock-in system to report it to the admin clerk. “All the queries get investigated and corrected in the following week’s wage run,” he said.

According to Van Zyl, the Mkhondeni plant was started at the end of August, beginning of September to assist the company’s Gauteng one with overflowing business. He said the Mkhondeni factory does not have a large enough local customer base to make it sustainable, which is one of the reasons why the workers are on fixed term (monthly) contracts until the end of the month. “We intend to make a final decision on the viability and sustainability of the company in the new year when our board has its first meeting. This will all depend on the profitability, possible growth of the customer base. If the board decides to continue with the operation all trained and qualified staff who have completed their three months’ probation period will be offered permanent positions with the start of our new financial year on March 1, 2018 as discussed and agreed with them.”

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