Putco and Numsa play the blame game as workers continue to suffer

Numsa says Putco is mistreating its employees, while Putco accuses Numsa of resorting to theatrics. Picture: Thobile Mathonsi

Numsa says Putco is mistreating its employees, while Putco accuses Numsa of resorting to theatrics. Picture: Thobile Mathonsi

Published Feb 22, 2024


A tug of war between the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) and the bus operating company, Putco, continues as employees’ livelihoods are on the line.

The union is accusing the bus company of mistreating its employees – especially the ones that were on suspension.

Yesterday, Union spokesperson Phakamile Hlubi-Majola accused Putco of wanting to con workers out of getting their bonuses and salary increases. She added that in 2020, the operator sought for 6% exemption from salary increases and the payment of bonuses.

“What is interesting is that in the press statement issued by Putco, they do not deny that they attempted to apply for exemption, by falsely pleading poverty.

“Their application was denied by the Exemptions Committee because it found that Putco could afford to pay the increase and the bonuses.

“The salary increase would have cost Putco R38,8 million. But instead of paying salaries, Putco chose to pay a major shareholder at Carleo Enterprises a whopping R60 million!

“At the same time, this generous payout was made during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic when workers were starving because government was inefficient about paying the Covid TERS relief payments, but Putco got a full subsidy from government, whilst the majority of its employees suffered,” she explained.

Furthermore, Hlubi-Majola said the workers were well within their rights to be angry at Putco’s attempts to con them out of their hard-earned increases and the work stoppage that took place in 2022.

“This was because even at that stage, Putco was still refusing to pay the increases and pretending it could not afford it, when its own finances proved that it could afford it.

“It was the actions of workers that compelled Putco to pay the increase and the bonuses, after the CCMA intervened and a Section 150 Settlement Agreement was signed.

“Putco management did not pay out of the goodness of their hearts or because they were motivated to do the right thing, no! They were compelled to pay because workers were withholding their labour, and the only way to persuade them to return to work was for it to agree to make the payments.”

However, the bus company dismissed Numsa’s allegations.

Putco’s spokesperson Lindokuhle Xulu said the bus operator applied for an exemption from the 6% salary increase and bonuses for 2020 due to the financial impact of Covid-19.

Xulu continued to say that when the 2022 industry strike began, it was already before the Labour Court.

“On September 13, 2022, Putco and the unions, including Numsa, resolved to end the strike through a Section 150 CCMA Settlement Agreement. To date, all employees have received increases and bonuses due to them.”

On suspension, Xulu said the company had reviewed suspension conditions due to several issues, including employees engaging in secondary employment and not attending disciplinary hearings, adding that the decision was within the company’s rights.

He accused Numsa of resorting to theatrics instead of exploring available grievance-resolution processes.