The corporate office of embattled state-owned defence and technology group Denel is today the target of a number of trade unions protesting poor management which includes possible non-payment of salaries at month-end.
Centurion-headquartered trade union Solidarity said its members in the Denel group will join members of Uasa (United Association of South Africa), Numsa (National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa) and Limusa (Liberated Metalworkers Union of South Africa) in protest action at the Denel Irene campus.
The peaceful protest, scheduled to start at 11am, will end with the handing over of a memorandum and petition to the Denel board.
“It is outrageous that a company accused of fraudulent financial conduct would expect workers to simply continue working while not knowing when to expect their next salary cheque,” Solidarity Deputy General Secretary Johan Botha said.
His comments come in the wake of a Denel announcement that salaries will be paid this month (October) but November salaries and 13th cheques are apparently in jeopardy. Botha pointed out Denel “struggled” to may management salaries at the end of September.
He said “several hundred Denel employees” used a Solidarity online petition to register objections against the way Denel was being managed and with the board, appointed by Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan in May this year. Denel is currently without a chief executive following the departure of Zwelakhe Ntshepe. Former Denel Aviation, subsequently Denel Aeronautics, chief executive Mike Kgobe is acting group chief executive.
Botha said today’s protest was another way employees want to make Denel aware of their dissatisfaction and unhappiness.
In August Gordhan told Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Public Enterprises a clean-up was underway at the arms producer. He is reported as saying the Denel board had revised the 2018/19 corporate plan to put more emphasis on turning around the entity and improving governance processes and structures.
In his report to parliament, Gordhan said Denel “experienced liquidity with unpaid creditors at R1,1 billion resulting in a suppliers withholding supplies, further putting operations under pressure. As a result, the SOC is likely to realise significantly lower revenue than planned in the 2017/18 corporate plan”.
On Wednesday afternoon Denel issued a statement saying it takes note of the demonstration by organised labour (Solidarity, NUMSA, LIMUSA and UASA) at the Irene Campus.
“Organised labour stated that they would like to express their unhappiness with the progress in turning around the company and raise awareness regarding steps required to rescue the company and save jobs. According to Section 69 of the Labour Relations Act, trade unions may apply to the employer for permission to picket at the premises of the employer, if the picket is in support of a dispute that has been declared, or a protected strike or a lock out by the employer. However, there is currently no dispute between management and organised labour, there is no protected strike or lockout taking place which may raise legal questions about the rationale and applicability of a picket.
“The Chairman of the Board engaged organised labour prior to the demonstration to discuss issues of concern and progress on pertinent issues. Denel reiterates its commitment to maintain good relations with labour unions that represent employees of the company.
“The Board and management will also continue with its efforts to turn the company around, strengthen corporate governance and stabilise Denel’s financial position. It will continue to engage with all stakeholders, including government, labour and suppliers to achieve these objectives,” Denel said.