Numsa accuses bus services company of attempted murder ‘by defying lockdown’

Numsa accuses bus services company of attempted murder ‘by defying lockdown’

A glass sculpture entitled "coronavirus – COVID-19" created by British artist Luke Jerram is seen at his studio in Bristol, southwest of England on March 17, 2020. Jerram has created a coronavirus – COVID-19 – glass sculpture in tribute to the huge global scientific and medical effort to combat the pandemic. Made in glass, at 23cm in diameter, it is 1 million times larger than the actual virus. (Photo by ADRIAN DENNIS / AFP)

The union says the company has threatened it with legal action for advising its members to defy its instructions.

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) in the Western Cape has condemned Golden Arrow Bus Services of allegedly contravening and disregarding the directive given by President Cyril Ramaphosa declaring a national lockdown to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

The Numsa regional secretary in the Western Cape, Vuyo Lufele, said in a statement: “Golden Arrow is trying to force workers to defy the lockdown and go to work. This is nothing less than attempted murder and we demand that they stop immediately.”

The union announced on Twitter that Lufele would be interviewed on SAfm on Monday afternoon to talk about the company, which it said was “putting the public’s safety in danger by refusing to adhere to the lockdown”.

“Golden Arrow misled the Western Cape Provincial Government by declaring itself as an essential service company. It has demanded that some workers must avail themselves to work shifts, whilst at the same time it has placed other workers on lay off and is forcing them to take paid leave during the 21-day lockdown.

“As Numsa and other unions that are organised in the bus passenger sector, we successfully fought against attempts by Golden Arrow and other bus companies to declare the sector an essential service in 2018. If they had succeeded in their application, then workers in the bus passenger sector would not be allowed to strike.

“Golden Arrow is not an essential service and it cannot simply declare itself such overnight. Instead of transforming the bus sector and improving working conditions so that workers do not have to resort to strike action, they hoped the CCMA would help them do the dirty work of denying workers the constitutional right to strike, so that they can continue to abuse and exploit workers.

“As a result of this misinformation campaign by Golden Arrow management, two bus drivers were arrested on Friday for carrying busloads of passengers. These incidents happened at Vangate Mall in Athlone and AZ Berman in Mitchells Plain. Both of these drivers were following the instructions of management, and driving buses which were full to capacity in direct contravention of the call to implement social distancing. We are busy investigating these incidents and if we find out that these are Numsa members, we will ensure that Golden Arrow is charged with attempted murder for using our members as paid assassins.”

Lufele said the union was not surprised that the bus services company “would stoop so low” and “deliberately manipulate” the outbreak of the virus “in order to make more money”.

“The management of Golden Arrow are like vultures who feed off the suffering of the working class. Instead of playing their role and helping the government to defeat the spread of the virus, they are forcing workers into the street, exposing them directly to the virus, and to add salt to the wound, they are threatening them with disciplinary action if they do not heed the call to go to work. They want workers to risk their lives, just so they can make money. We want to remind them that the labour law explicitly states that workers have the right to refuse certain duties if they feel it may endanger their lives.”

Lufele said the company has threatened the union with “legal action because we are advising our members to defy their directive”.

“We have informed the management of Golden Arrow that we reject their attempts to bully workers and to bully the union with contempt. We will defend ourselves and our members and we reject their idle threats because they do not have a legal leg to stand on. We urge our members to ignore their demands for them to go to work, otherwise not only do they risk being arrested, but they are risking their lives and the lives of their families for a thoughtless, selfish employer that does not care for them or for South African society as a whole.”

(Compiled by Makhosandile Zulu)

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