The operations of several transport companies have been disrupted – and in some cases halted – by protests led by the SA National Cargo Transport Drivers Association (Sancatdra).
The protests, which are allegedly related to non-compliance with the National Bargaining Council for the Road Freight and Logistics Industry (NBCRFLI) agreement and the employment of foreign drivers, have aggravated the critical domestic market shortage of some building and construction materials, particularly the supply of cement.
Bogdan Kazmierczak, owner of Bogdans Transport, one of the largest transporters of bulk cement, said in a letter to customers that it had “no option but to close the company down and stop its operations with immediate effect”.
Moneyweb asked Kazmierczak if his company has closed down temporarily or permanently.
“I don’t know. I can’t get workers to come to work,” he said.
Kazmierczak said 209 members of his workforce were not prepared to drive on October 9, 2020, resulting in him firing all of them.
“Since October 12 they have been sitting at my gate and intimidating everybody – my customers, myself, my family, my workers [who were not fired] who want to come back to work. Nobody can get into the yard and nobody can get out of the yard,” he said.
Kazmierczak said Bogdans has been unable to operate since October 12, 2020.
He claimed the protesting drivers had burnt one truck within the company’s premises during the evening on October 9, 2020 and the police had to use rubber bullets to disperse the strikers when they became violent on October 13, 2020.
Kazmierczak added that Bogdans applied for and was granted an urgent interdict by the Labour Court in Johannesburg on October 14, 2020 to move the protestors 1 000 metres from the company’s gate.
Kazmierczak claimed an explanation for the illegal strike provided to a Bogdans director was that unregistered union Sancatdra, together with the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and Black First Land First (BLF), wanted to take over the entire management of Bogdans and did not want any white people to be employed in future by the company.
BLF national secretary for logistics and organising Tshidiso Tsimong denied the political movement was part of these protests.
Kazmierczak further claimed that he had discussions with EFF leader Julius Malema, who wrote him a letter indicating that the protests had nothing to do with the EFF and the following day the “EFF disappeared from my gate”.
“As Bogdans Transport is a member of the industry’s bargaining council and has had no previous strikes or grievances raised by employees or any outside parties, we can state that the current strike action is an approach by the EFF, Sancatdra union to bring the construction industry within South Africa to a standstill,” he said.
Attempts to obtain comment from the EFF about these claims were unsuccessful.
The disruption to cement transporters’ operations is happening against the backdrop of reports that at least 20 cargo trucks have been set alight or petrol-bombed since Thursday, on routes leading in and out of Gauteng. The Truckers Association of South Africa (Tasa) has appealed to Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula to take action to prevent more trucks from being torched.
Sancatdra President Daniel Mofokeng said on Monday he did not know what transpired and cannot comment on who was responsible for burning these trucks.
“But as Sancatdra we see them as the criminal element and those who are behind this action must be arrested and be brought to justice,” he said.
Kazmierczak said other transporters in the cement industry have also been targeted, including Elf Transport, Summit Vervoer, LTD Transport and Hilton Transport.
There have been reports that Elf Transport will be closing down because of continuous harassment by Sancatdra.
Attempts to obtain comment from Elf Transport director Andre Diedericks were unsuccessful.
Mofokeng denied Sancatdra has targeted any firms.
“We are not actually targeting anyone but we have been ‘dealing’ with a couple of companies like Elf Transport, All Bulk, Bogdans and Hilton Transport.
“It’s not a matter of targeting but is the matter of engaging with these [transporters], which are not willing to [come] to the table and engage,” he said.
Mofokeng claimed Sancatdra wanted to engage with Elf Transport and All Bulk because these two companies wanted to introduce labour brokers “to absorb all the permanent employees with long service”.
“That was our big concern,” he said.
Mofokeng claimed one of the companies has also replaced all its South African drivers with foreign drivers.
Kazmierczak denied this, claiming “there are not any companies in our field that employ foreign drivers”.
Mofokeng said Sancatdra is now engaging with Bogdans about its compliance with the trucking industry’s bargaining council agreement in regard to the national minimum wage, working hours, payment for working overtime, on Sundays and holidays and the conditions of employment in general.
“But now it’s as if the employer is very arrogant to engage with the employees with the assistance of our organisation. On October 12, when all the employees went back to work, the gates were locked. They were actually locked out by the employer [Bogdans],” he said.
Kazmierczak has a different version of events, stressing that Sancatdra has not engaged with Bogdans for the past two months.
Mofokeng denied Sancatdra wanted to take over the management of Bogdans.
“That is pure lies. We cannot as a trade union make a demand of such a nature because we are not an organisation for making profit,” he said.
Mofokeng said a Labour Court interdict was granted to Bogdans on October 14, 2020, in terms of which the employees had to stand 50 metres away from the company’s gate and must not disturb the operation “which all the employees abide by even until today”.
However, Mofokeng said 12 employees were arrested and taken to prison on Friday.
Kazmierczak confirmed 12 protestors were arrested for different things related to disobeying the order of the court.
“They didn’t want to move from my gate. We have an interdict that they must be moved 1 000 metres from my gate. They didn’t want to move so the police came and arrested them,” he said.
Mofokeng said the arrested employees were only released from prison on Monday morning.
“The employees were arrested in their cars on the main road away from the employer’s establishment. We understand that somebody is using his financial muscle to use the state organs, in this case the police officers,” he said.