27 MARCH 2020
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
SUBJECT: CCMA AND MINISTERIAL INTERVENTION ON THE PICK ‘N PAY WORK STOPPAGE
The Commission for Conciliation Mediation & Arbitration (CCMA) was called upon to intervene in a dispute between employees at the Pick ‘n Pay Longmeadow Distribution Centre in respect of concerns raised on health and safety issues and a request that an incentive be made available to employees working during the COVID-19 nationwide lockdown. In efforts to expedite the matter of national interest, the process commenced with parties in the early morning hours of Thursday, 26 March 2020, wherein these various concerns were addressed and efforts aimed at ensuring that employees returned to work and operations resumed were explored.
In the course of these discussions, an in-principle agreement was reached between the company and the union, pending ratification by its members. The parties agreed on an incentive being afforded to employees working during the nationwide lockdown, that no disciplinary action would be taken against employees and that ultimatums issued for employees to return to work would be withdrawn. It was also agreed that there would be no industrial action for the period of the COVID-19 nationwide lockdown. Regrettably, the opportunity to sign the agreement was not possible, with employees rejecting the proposals at hand and opting to continue with the work stoppage. The employer thereafter issued ultimatums for employees to return to work, which subsequently resulted in the dismissal of the employees due to the illegal work stoppage.
The Minister of Employment and Labour, Honourable Thulas Nxesi, MP, and the Director of the CCMA, Cameron Morajane, intervened on 26 March 2020, addressing union representatives and affording them the opportunity to address their members in efforts to save employees’ jobs in respect of the consequent dismissals. Minister Nxesi and the CCMA Director addressed the employees, with the CCMA Director emphasising the importance of their collective role in the nation’s interest to ensure the uninterrupted supply of food during the current COVID-19 nationwide lockdown. After long and constructive deliberations, the employees agreed to return to work and resume all operations.
As such the CCMA is pleased to announce that employees have indeed returned to work with both parties understanding their respective rights and obligations; the employer acknowledged the right of its employees to return to work and the employees also showed an understanding of the implications of illegal work stoppages during the COVID-19 nationwide lockdown. This settlement is of national importance and applies across all distribution centres nationally.
There is a commitment from parties to remain in discussions to deliberate on employees’ concerns and to further explore relationship-building initiatives beyond this period. The Honourable President Cyril Ramaphosa has since been informed of these developments.
This opportunity is also taken to commend the parties involved for remaining committed to the process and for being active contributors to the finding of a workable resolution to the matter.
We appeal to all employees across all essential services industries to refrain from any unprotected industrial action during the period of the lockdown.
The CCMA wishes everyone well during these trying times.
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