Nehawu outraged over ‘unfair dismissal’

Members of the National Health Education and Allied Workers’ Union picketing outside Epworth School on Tuesday morning in support of dismissed permanent security guards.
Members of the National Health Education and Allied Workers’ Union picketing outside Epworth School on Tuesday morning in support of dismissed permanent security guards.
Thabang Mathebula

A workers' union and some parents of Epworth pupils are up in arms following what they describe as the alleged unfair dismissal of six Epworth School security personnel.

The National Health Education and Allied Workers’ Union staged a picket on Tuesday morning outside the school’s main entrance expressing their disapproval.

The union is demanding that the ousted guards, who had been working at the school for more than 10 years, be reinstated with immediate effect.

The union said one of the six was absorbed by the private security company currently rendering security services there.

Concerned parents expressed their disappointment at the school board and management about how the matter was handled.

“I feel it unnecessary to replace such trustworthy guards. I have known them for years and they are friendly people,” said a concerned parent.

According to Nehawu, Epworth called them into a consultative meeting late last year, with the agenda of retrenching six security guards.

They said they feel undermined because the school used retrenchment processes to dismiss its members and to outsource a security company.

Nehawu’s Harry Gwala region secretary Zimasile Giyama said the negotiation between the school and the union collapsed after the union discovered this.

He said they withdrew because they felt the school did not have the interests of the workers at heart.

“We consider this as an unfair dismissal,” said Giyama.

He said the union was outraged by the school’s move to evict the workers from the school premises on Saturday via a court interdict.

The school’s head, Laura Bekker, said the school has been in negotiation with the five security personnel.

“We acknowledge the right of the security guards to protest this action even though the management of the school has dealt with the matter in the fairest possible way.

“We, therefore, ask that everyone respect the process and trust the decisions made by the school management for the security of the campus, the staff and the pupils,” Bekker said.

She added that the management, with the support of the board, had made this decision for various reasons.

“As this is a labour matter that requires consultation and a fair and objective procedure we have followed a process with the legal and procedural input of an external facilitator with the required objectivity and compliance.

“The school is committed to ensuring that the affected personnel be treated in the fairest possible manner,” said Bekker.

Furthermore, she said it remains the school’s responsibility to ensure that pupils and parents have the assurance that the school has the best possible security measures in place.

Bekker said fair severance packages and certificates of service have been processed for the affected security staff.

She said the school has undertaken to negotiate with the relevant outsourced security firm for the employment of the retrenched security personnel.

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