South Africa: Migrant security guards appear in court over unfair dismissal payment

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Ultimate Protection and Control failed to pay R300,000 due to workers in compensation, lawyer says

A group of security guards is taking a security company to court to make it pay the money it is owed for being unfairly fired last year.

The workers challenged their dismissal with the CCMA and a decision was issued in their favour.

The company agreed to pay the workers R300,000 in monthly installments starting in August 2021. But the payment has not been made, according to the workers’ lawyers.

A group of security guards are taking a Cape Town-based security company to court to make it pay the money they are owed for being wrongfully fired last year.

About 18 workers received letters from company management, Ultimate Protection and Control (UPC), informing them that their contracts had been terminated in February 2021.

The group then sought assistance from the Africa Revival Foundation who referred them to a lawyer before heading to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) on March 23, 2021.

According to CCMA arbitration documents, the company had agreed to make monthly payments totaling R300,000 over a six-month period starting in August 2021. But, according to the guards, the company did not make the first payment into an account opened by lawyer Charl May, representing the workers.

The award was compensation for what was deemed to be unfair dismissals, unpaid wages for the last month of work, illegal deductions from their wages, unpaid overtime and public holidays.

With payment still pending in December, the workers’ lawyer asked the sheriff’s court to seize some company property, such as furniture. But the value of items found on the property did not match the value of the settlement.

“The company did not pay or respond after we communicated at length. We sent the sheriff to seize the property, but the sheriff only found 3,000 rand worth of goods. Our way forward is to file a claim with the court so that a court can order them to pay,” May told GroundUp. He said they were waiting for the court to give them a hearing date for their claim.

May believes the company’s decision to terminate workers’ contracts follows a decision by the Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority (PSiRA) to crack down on companies that use undocumented immigrants in the security industry. “Whether the contract is illegal or not, immigrant workers must always be treated fairly. An employer cannot simply terminate the contract of a person who has worked there for more than five years without paying the money owed to the employee” , said May .

Meanwhile, workers have had to scramble to find jobs, though most of them remain unemployed.

Lola Lema Momba, 40, from Kinshasa, Congo, said he had worked for the UPC since 2016. Workers were paid 200 rand per shift and earned around 4,400 rand per month. “Sometimes they asked me to work without taking time off while they looked for a replacement, but never paid me overtime for the extra hours worked.” He currently works at his friend’s hair salon to help support his three children.

PSiRA spokeswoman Sharon Matiapoto said that in cases where companies are found to be “deploying unregistered security guards to provide security services”, the Authority registers a security code file. inappropriate conduct against the company and its officials.

“During the 2020/2021 reference year, the PSiRA Law Enforcement division worked closely with the [police] against such allegations. This resulted in 47 operations which led to 875 arrests, as well as 1,377 criminal cases registered against non-compliant security service providers,” Matiapoto said.

GroundUp first sent emails to UPC chief executive Danie Van Wyk and Marius Smuts, both mentioned in the CCMA case, on January 17. A reminder was sent on February 7. We also called the company back on Monday and Thursday and spoke to an employee who identified herself only as Carmen. She said she forwarded the message to the person concerned. No response has been received at the time of publication.

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