Striking workers block the entrance to Summerveld ahead of the Vodacom Durban July. Picture: JACKIE CLAUSEN
Striking workers block the entrance to Summerveld ahead of the Vodacom Durban July. Picture: JACKIE CLAUSEN

The Academic and Professional Staff Association (Apsa) says it will disrupt the Vodacom Durban July horse race after reaching a deadlock with Phumelela Gaming and Leisure on its plans to retrench about 500 workers. 

The company said on Wednesday it had met with Apsa to amend its offering for hundreds of employees in its betting division who now face retrenchment, following reports that the union was planning a protest at the famous horse race  to be held at the Greyville racecourse in Durban at the weekend. 

Apsa general-secretary Boitumelo Senokoane told Business Day the union would go ahead with its plan to disrupt the event as Phumelela did not present a revised offer at the meeting and did not address some of the demands of the union and employees. 

“They are still going ahead with retrenchments, they do not want to address the issue of provident funds and they did not to agree to a two-week severance pay that we have put on the table.If they are not ready to meet us with a new offer by the end of the business day, then we will meet on Saturday at the Durban July,” he said. 

The event is staged by Gold Circle Racing and Gaming, the horseracing and tote betting company in KwaZulu-Natal. The company said the event was not under threat. 

Phumelela and other players such as Gold Circle and Kenilworth Racing provide services for customers to bet on the horse races through Tab, Betting World, Supabets, and Interbet, among others.

Phumelela said it must retrench as some of its stores were unprofitable and had to be closed. 

“Phumelela regrets the loss of jobs, but as is the case with numerous other companies, the current state of the SA economy leaves the company with absolutely no choice but to rationalise its operations,” it said.

However, the company said it is is optimistic that an amicable solution will be reached with the union.

The company's share price fell to R4.80, its lowest level in nearly 15 years.

Earlier in 2019, Phumelela fought an amendment to Gauteng’s gambling regulations which could see the company lose R75m a year. The regulation aims to direct Phumelela’s 3% tax gain from punters’ winnings to the Gauteng Gambling Board.

The company said the amendment, which came into effect on April 1, will have a significant impact on the company’s finances as its betting tax in the province accounts for 90% of its domestic betting taxes.

In June, Phumelela said it would continue to engage with the provincial government and the Gauteng Gambling Board to reach a mutually acceptable resolution.