Numsa accuses Putco of mistreating its suspended workers

Public Utility Transport Corporation (Putco) bus at the New Canada bus depot. Picture: Itumeleng English/Africa News Agency(ANA)

Public Utility Transport Corporation (Putco) bus at the New Canada bus depot. Picture: Itumeleng English/Africa News Agency(ANA)

Published Feb 26, 2024


The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) has accused bus operator Putco of mistreating its suspended workers.

This comes after more than 120 employees, mostly bus drivers, were suspended for participating in an illegal strike sometime in 2022.

Since then, the employees have been attending their disciplinary hearings on a regular basis at the company’s Soweto depot.

The latest accusation comes just when the back and forth war of words has intensified after the union also accused the bus operator of dumping human waste in the bush located next to its Soweto depot.

According to Independent Media, a suspended employee recorded a video of a van carrying a mobile toilet, dumping alleged faeces in a bushy area, within the Putco premises.

In a statement at the weekend, Numsa spokesperson, Phakamile Hlubi-Majola, argued that the company keeps these suspended employees as prisoners who are denied access to clean water and ablution facilities while they are required to report at the depot every day since their 2022 suspension.

“At least 120 workers have been suspended by Putco management for participating in an unprotected strike in 2022.

“The standard practice for workers on suspension is that they sit at home while on suspension, and then attend the disciplinary hearing when needed.

“But Putco has taken this principle overboard. Putco management, led by Franco Pisapia, the MD, decided that they want to act as judge, jury and prison guards.

“The CCMA has not even made a finding on whether they committed misconduct, but under the leadership of Pisapia, Putco has decided to impose its own sentence on workers by forcing them to report to ‘prison’ on a daily basis.

“Workers are forced to sit in an area known as the ‘cage’ and their movements are restricted. They may not drink decent water or use decent toilets.

“Putco is behaving like the guard of a jail by insisting that workers report to ‘prison’ if they want to get their salaries in full,” Hlubi-Majola alleges.

However, Putco has denied the allegations, saying Numsa is driving a smear campaign against it.

Putco spokesperson, Lindokuhle Xulu, has denied allegations that the bus operator was abusing its suspended employees as suggested by Numsa.

“Numsa says Putco declared war on suspended employees by amending their suspension terms, requiring them to report at Putco premises without performing any duties.

“Putco reviewed the suspension conditions due to several issues, including employees engaging in secondary employment and not attending disciplinary hearings.

“The decision is within the company’s rights, and instead of exploring available grievance resolution processes, Numsa has turned to public theatrics,” Xulu said.

On the allegation of keeping workers hostage, Putco denies having done so.

“Numsa also alleges that the company forces workers to sit in cages referred to as ‘prison depots’ from reporting time till knock off-time.

“The allegation is devoid of truth.

“The areas accommodating employees are big enough and suitable for them to remain indoors as they may prefer.

“The only prohibition is that they may not enter areas where other employees are actively working to avoid disruption or interference with the company operations,” Xulu added.

The Star