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WATCH: Debonairs Pizza shop threatened with closure over working conditions

07 November, 05:20 PM

A video has surfaced of social activist and former EFF Students' Command leader Mpho Morolane embroiled in a heated exchange with a Debonairs franchise owner.

Morolane, who represented employees at the branch as the secretary general of the National Association of South African Workers, told News24 that the employees called his newly-formed union about their working conditions.

He said money was deducted from their salaries because the owner wanted to recover losses from stock theft and wanted to "shock them" to keep it from happening in the future.

"The workers called me saying that they have been abused by the owner of the shop for quite some time."

"Besides the money that is deducted from their salaries unlawfully, they do not get overtime, public holiday or Sunday pay and are just told to be grateful to have jobs," said Morolane.

He said the owner was confronted and the union demanded that money deducted from workers' salaries be reimbursed.

Morolane acknowledged his confrontational approach, saying that he contacted the owner six days prior to the incident and did not get a response to the workers' demands.

"Our confrontational approach makes them listen. We get no response to emails."

"This is a social justice issue because modern slavery is often not exposed. People always get the impression that workers are treated well at these stores," added Morolane.

According to Morolane, the owner asked for an opportunity to speak to the employees alone.

However, after this meeting between the owner and his employees, some workers reported that they would be refunded if they ceased to be union members.

The owner has since been in contact with the union and expressed disappointment over its approach.

Workers at the branch are registered members of the National Association of South African Workers.

"They will eventually have to pay their subscriptions to become members in good standing. But we have a passion for what we do, and we must represent them even if they are not in good standing," said Morolane.

The union was founded out of the #FeesMustFall movement as the students included the plight of contracted cleaners and security guards in their campaign.

News24 attempted to get hold of the owner but someone who answered the phone said that all inquiries must be directed to the Debonairs head office.

When contacted by News24, acting operations executive at Debonairs Pizza Terry Boardman clarified the franchisors stance.

"In terms of the franchise agreements, our franchisees are contractually required to comply with all legislation in respect of their obligations.

"We take any deviations seriously and these are dealt with swiftly to ensure they are immediately rectified. All Debonairs Pizza staff are important to us and we do not tolerate any infringement to employees' rights, including that of belonging to a registered union," said Boardman.

"Pay and benefits are aligned to the requirements stipulated in various legislation relating to minimum wage and the respective bargaining councils. In many cases however, our franchisees further incentivise staff performance, and this remains a best practice."

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