KZN Time Freight employees claim religious discrimination at work

2017-02-07 22:12
About 300 staff members working at the Time Freight depot in Durban downed tools claiming that they were being religiously discriminated against at work. (Amanda Khoza, News24)

About 300 staff members working at the Time Freight depot in Durban downed tools claiming that they were being religiously discriminated against at work. (Amanda Khoza, News24)

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Durban – A group of employees at a road freight company on Tuesday protested against what they claim is religious discrimination by a manager.

About 300 staff members - mostly men - gathered outside Time Freight's Durban depot.

“We are not allowed to do anything that has to do with our traditional beliefs. For example, they don’t want you to wear isiphandla [traditional wristband],” Ian Radebe, of Bhambayi in Inanda, said. He had been working at the company for more than three years.

“If you are a Shembe church member, then you are not allowed to grow your beard. They make you shave it and the church is against that.”

He said a manager they were unhappy with, was allowed to wear Indian traditional religious accessories, while they were not.

No dismissal warranted

In November last year, employees at the company’s Durban depot withheld their services in protest against the manager’s behaviour, Time Freight CEO Etienne van Ravesteyn said in a statement on Tuesday.

An independent hearing found that while the manager fell short of expected standards, no summary dismissal was warranted. Despite the fact that the company, employees, and trade unions agreed to be bound by the outcome, some employees were still unhappy. Since then, several attempts had been made to resolve the dispute.

The industrial action currently underway was unprotected and the company was dealing with it in terms of the labour law, Van Ravesteyn said.

He said the company did not tolerate behaviour that was dishonest or disrespectful.

The group’s shop steward, Lindelani Shange, also known as Nelson from Bonela, claimed there was much discrimination at work.

“When we raise concerns, they don’t hear what you say.” He had worked for the company for 10 years.

Shange said the manager allegedly made working conditions unbearable.

“We are in uniform because we are ready to work. They must dismiss him so that we can go back to work,” he said.

He alleged they were threatened with dismissal.

Khulekani Mazibuko, of Pinetown, had been working for the company for 15 years.

“They are exploiting, discriminating, and they fire people illegally. There were cases against this certain manager, but he has not been fired,” Mazibuko claimed.

The Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Religious‚ Cultural and Linguistic Communities’ acting CEO Edward Mafadza said if the allegations were true, the employees should report the company.

“It is up to the managers in that particular sector to uphold the spirit of the Constitution when it comes to issues of religion, and try to be inclusive.”

If the employees felt their religious rights were not being protected, they should lodge a complaint with the commission so it could speak to the employer.

“Sometimes the employer is not aware of what the issues are, so we can educate them so that they can realise that they are on the wrong side.”

Mafadza said the isiphandla was sacred to African people.

“People might associate it with evil, but that is because they are coming from different religious beliefs. It is our duty to educate employers that isiphandla is like a wedding band that you put on.”


Read more on:    durban  |  religion  |  culture

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