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VIDEO: Judgement expected in case between Agni Steels SA and its workers

By Afikile Lugunya - Jan 16, 2018
VIDEO: Judgement expected in case between Agni Steels SA and its workers

The Port Elizabeth High Court is expected on Tuesday to hand down judgement in the matter between steel-maker, Agni Steels SA Pty, which is based in the Coega IDZ, in Port Elizabeth, and around 140 of its workers.

Disgruntled workers from the company again held a picket in front of the Port Elizabeth High Court on Monday where their case against their employer was heard.

The workers, who are aligned with the Liberated Metalworkers Union of South Africa (LIMUSA), downed tools at the beginning of December over alleged abuse at the steel-maker.

Speaking to RNEWS about a week or so ago, they said that while they had applied for a protected strike over the alleged abuses, they were surprised when the company locked them out and the even went ahead to hire new workers to replace them.

On Monday, they began their picket at 09:00 after they were informed that their case would be heard at 10am. Unfortunately for them, it was postponed to 13:00, but their spirits didn’t fade away as they were seen dancing and chanting in the hot sun.

Bonginkosi Zulu, who is the National Legal officer for LIMUSA, is representing the workers and argued in court that workers must be allowed to return to their workstations immediately because they are not protesting, but they were forcefully locked out by the employer after a verbal communication with them.

According to Zulu, the employer ‘demanded’ LIMUSA members to co-sign a wage agreement that was concluded by the company and National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa and Solidarity (NUMSA), which is a minority trade union at the company.

After they refused, they gave notice that they intended to hold a strike, but were shocked that even before they began the strike, they were locked out unlawfully.

Zulu told the court that the company's report that states that the employees started their strike at 10:45 on the said day, was not true because at that exact time, they were verbally informed of the lockout.

He claimed to have email evidencce of what happened and also argued that workers cannot be replaced because they didn’t cause any harm during their lockout - and since they are permanently employed, it is unlawful to replace them.

He also emphasised that the picket came after the lockout was initiated because at that time the strike was not declared.

Zulu told the court that a Human Resource Manager at the company told the workers four times that: “We have been saying to you many times co-sign with Numsa”, which, he argued in court, is a clear demand or order from the company that the workers throw away their rights and do as the company demands.

Representing Agni Steels, Advocate Mullins argued that when the workers were told to co-sign that was not an order, but a rule of the company.

He told the court that the workers did not come back to work the following day and if they are not striking, why have they not gone back to work or asking the company that they return to their posts.

Presiding Judge Potgieter sat in silence as he listened to the arguments.

In the end, he said that he will deliver his judgement on Tuesday at 10am.