RAF denies poor working conditions as strike looms

Johannesburg - The financially embattled Road Accident Fund (RAF) denied allegations on Wednesday that it was exposing its Johannesburg employees to harmful working conditions.

This comes after the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) announced on Tuesday that it had received a strike certificate to protest against poor working conditions at the fund.

The RAF’s acting Chief Executive Officer Lindelwa Jabavu denied that the fund “did not care that workers were suffering".

She told Fin24 NUMSA would “rather preoccupy itself with maligning the fund" than cooperating to create better employment conditions.

NUMSA said in a statement it wanted to avoid a strike and would rather settle the dispute amicably. But it has demanded that the fund’s employee relations and general manager be suspended for allegedly mismanaging working conditions in Johannesburg.

Working conditions

The alleged poor working conditions that NUMSA references in its complaint were the result of a electricity blackout in Johannesburg’s CBD caused by cable theft in September.

The theft left parts of the inner city without power for days.  

Air conditioning units stopped working at the RAF's regional office in the city centre.   

Phakamile Hlubi, acting national spokesperson for NUMSA, said eight workers fainted from the heat. This heat was exacerbated by working in a windowless environment.

“The building has poor sanitation exposing workers to potentially dangerous illnesses and infections.”

But Jabavu said the union’s version of events is not correct. She said that, two days after the blackout occurred, the landlord allowed employees back into the building after providing a generator.

Industrial fans were set up in an attempt to alleviate heat discomfort, while additional computers were placed in rooms with natural light, she said. Working hours also varied. 

On September 13, six RAF staff members were stuck in a lift for approximately 15 minutes due to a technical error, Jabavu said. The employees were treated for shock before being sent home.

She did acknowledge that, on the same day, two staff members fainted because of the heat. They were revived by paramedics and sent home.

“The rest of the staff was relieved of their duties at noon on that day, There were no further incidents.”

Laptop attachment

Hlubi said the union was also distressed that workers had to share workstations for nearly a month at the RAF’s Menlyn branch, after computers in the fund's Litigation and Determination Department were seized by a sheriff of the court.

A hundred laptops were attached after the fund was unable to meet the demands of its creditors.

Hlubi said that, due to the sheriff seizing the laptops, the RAF's litigation department were unable to process the paperwork related to court matters.

In response, Jabavu said the loss of the laptops only disrupted business "temporarily".

“Extra laptops were acquired from throughout the business and utilised by critical staff,” she said, adding that the attached laptops have since been replaced, and will be distributed to staff in due course.

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