E-toll opponents slam retrenchments

FILE PICTURE: A toll gantry on the N1 South near the Maraisburg Road offramp. Picture: Michel Bega

The company responsible for running the controversial e-tolling system in Gauteng “couldn’t care less” about employees affected by its decision to retrench.

This is according to Justice Project SA chairperson Howard Dembovsky, who was reacting to a report in The Citizen that the Electronic Toll Collection consortium (ETC), plans to retrench management staff.

The Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (Outa) says this sends clear indications that the system is going bust.

“People are disposable liabilities and are considered to be ‘collateral damage’ by executives and corporations,”¬†Dembovsky said.

ETC CEO Jamie Surkont said the retrenchments presented¬†“short term challenges” for some staff, but believed it displayed long-term gains to all stakeholders.

In response, Dembovsky said Surkont and his “capitalist masters” were protecting their own interests.

Surkont “couldn’t care less about the employees who are to be affected by this decision,” he said.

ETC was awarded a R6.2 billion contract in 2009 by the SA National Roads Agency Ltd (Sanral) to collect tolls, and is also responsible for running a Violation Processing Centre which deals with non-compliant motorists.

Austrian company Kapsch TrafficCom provided the e-tolling system and owns 25% of ETC.

“I do empathise with those who are going to lose their jobs because of the irresponsible actions of Kapsch, Sanral and government in creating unsustainable employment opportunities,” said Dembovsky.

“But at the same time, they have benefited from a corrupt scheme whilst they remained employed and should be grateful for the monies they have received during that time. As for losing their jobs being a ‘short-term challenge’ for those affected goes, Surkont is clearly living in a different country to the rest of us.”

Jobs were not plentiful in South Africa and secondly, those affected may find that including their employment stint with ETC on their CVs may not endear them or contribute greatly to their prospects of getting another job, he said.

He likened e-tolls to a “Ponzi scheme” which “ultimately collapses”.

In a letter from the company’s human resources department seen by The Citizen, ETC advises employees of possible job retrenchments in terms of Section 189 of the Labour Relations Act.

“The business landscape in which ETC operates is rapidly changing and necessitates for structure changes within department,” it reads.

“The structural change is required to ensure that we improve the company’s effectiveness and efficiency.”

A meeting held on September 15 regarding the commercial operations restructure discussed the issue, according to the notice.

It further “reiterates” that no final decision has been taken “in this regard”, nor will it be made without proper consultation.

However it reads that employee that the retrenchments could not be avoided.

The ETC further suspended or placed a moratorium on recruitments. It was also willing to offer voluntary retrenchment packages to “mitigate the adverse effects” of dismissal.

“It is anticipated that the new structure be finalised by 1 December 2014.”

All staff affected include those at management level within commercial operations.

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