Turf war between door-factory unions turns deadly
Solid Doors gets court relief as Cosatu affiliate Ceppwawu and Amcu battle for control of its workers
A turf war between the Chemical, Energy, Paper, Printing, Wood and Allied Workers Union (Ceppwawu), a Cosatu affiliate, and the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) has resulted in the deaths of two people and a messy labour dispute between door manufacturer Solid Doors and more than 1,000 workers.
Amcu’s battle to be recognised at Solid Doors has also resulted in more than 1,000 workers at its Ekandustria, Tshwane, factory being fired and the facility closed.
This week, the company obtained a court order to stop former employees from coming within 600m of its premises. The interdict, which was unopposed, was granted by the High Court in Pretoria.
The workers claim they were unfairly dismissed and 839 of them are challenging their dismissals in the Labour Court in Johannesburg.
In court papers, Solid Doors director Neil Clack said the dispute stemmed from the company’s refusal to recognise Amcu as it had a collective agreement in place with Ceppwawu.
Following a verification exercise, Amcu did not reach the required 35% threshold to be recognised, Solid Doors said.
Amcu has now lodged an application with the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) for organisational rights.
Victor Mgidi, one of the affected employees, said the workers’ main grievance concerned poor remuneration, with some workers earning as little as R477 a week.
Problems arose when workers tried to discuss this with management, said Mgidi, adding that employees preferred Amcu to Ceppwawu.
However, the company said: "Solid Doors emphatically denies Mr Mgidi's statement that the main grievance was the issue of poor remuneration and that problems arose when the workers tried to discuss this with management and state that the sole reason for the unprotected strike was due to employees attempting to have Amcu recognised as the union instead of Ceppwawu."
Clack said the dismissals and factory closure were the result of workers participating in an unprotected strike. Solid Doors had issued three ultimatums to workers to return to work, but they "tore up the second ultimatum into tiny little pieces".
Solid Doors dismissed the employees who participated in the strike on May 4, and days later, two people died in the chaos from worker protests.
The CCMA has issued a certificate of outcome of dispute, allowing the workers to challenge their dismissals in the Labour Court. Solid Doors has asked the Labour Court to set the certificate aside, saying the CCMA had erred in issuing it.
This article was amended to include Solid Doors' response to Migidi's statement