Up to 700 jobs are on the line from the planned closure of popular inter-city bus service Greyhound, unions warned on Wednesday.
However, National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) secretary general Irvin Jim has threatened to interdict Greyhound’s owners Unitrans Passenger to stop closure, saying the union was only informed of the Section 189 retrenchment process on Tuesday.
Unitrans is a subsidiary of JSE-listed KAP Industrial Holdings.
Another union, the Democratised Transport Logistics and Allied Workers Union (Detawu), has said “it will do everything in its power” to also oppose the shutdown.
Greyhound, which has been in business since 1984 and carried more than a million passengers annually before the Covid-19 economic fallout, confirmed earlier on Wednesday that its operations will cease by Valentine’s Day.
The move has shocked both unions and South Africans.
“Unitrans Passenger employs more than 3000 employees [within] its various divisions. About 693 employees will be affected by the contemplated closure of Greyhound, Magic Bus and Megabus Midrand,” Jim said in Numsa’s reaction statement.
“Should Unitrans close, this would be a serious blow to workers and their families…. We cannot afford as a country to lose any more jobs, as this will simply worsen conditions for the working class and the poor,” he added.
Jim noted Unitrans’ statement that its business has been negatively affected by the Covid-19 travel restrictions.
“Management claims that the organisation has experienced extremely difficult conditions which have negatively affected the company’s financial performance…. It claims that it does not foresee sustainable revenue for the foreseeable future,” he said.
He lamented the fact that Unitrans Passenger only informed Numsa on Tuesday about the planned closure, which was “a mere two weeks’ notice”.
“Unitrans has from the onset undermined the transcripts of the Labour Relations Act that imposes a mandatory 60-day time period for consultation. Numsa is weighing its options and does not rule out the possibility of approaching the labour court to interdict the entire process,” said Jim.
Meanwhile, in its statement Detawu pointed out that it had only been notified on Monday of Greyhound’s 14 February final shutdown.
“This is certainly not the gift of love the nearly 700 workers at Greyhound, Magic Transfers and Mega Bus were expecting,” said the union’s secretary general Vusi Ntshangase.
“In the letter informing labour of its intention to shut down, the company cites difficult trading conditions as justification for wiping out 578 jobs at Greyhound South Africa and Zimbabwe; 55 jobs at Magic Transfers; and 60 jobs at Mega Bus Midrand,” he added.
“In the same letter, the company claims it attempted to sell the operation as a going concern but failed. The employer plans to hold the first consultation with labour this Friday, 5 February,” noted Ntshangase.
He said the speed at which the process was unfolding is “highly suspect”.
“Ordinarily, the company should have taken labour into its confidence at the first sign of trouble. More importantly, the employer should have applied to have the Commission for Conciliation Mediation and Arbitration [CCMA] facilitate the retrenchment process,” he explained.
“In response to the employer’s hurried Section 189 notice, Detawu has written to the company urging it to apply for CCMA facilitation. In the event the employer fails to do so by Thursday 4 February, then Detawu will submit its own application,” he added.
“We have to question why the company did not opt to go into business rescue when it found itself in financial dire straits. Doing so would have afforded it a real chance to pivot the business, save hundreds of jobs and even sell it as a going concern,” said Vusi Ntshangase.
In statements posted online and on its social media channels on Wednesday, Greyhound said its services will run until February 14, 2021, noting that passengers with tickets booked for services after this date would be refunded in full.
“For assistance with receiving your refund, contact our Call Centre 011 611 8000 or 087 352 0352 or email your ticket reference number and contact details to firstname.lastname@example.org,” it said.