Construction fine has union concerned

Union UASA is worried construction firms implicated in collusion will fire workers to pay fines.

Fifteen companies after they admitted to colluding on projects including the construction of the 2010 FIFA World Cup stadiums and the Gautrain. Picture: AFP

JOHANNSBURG - Government will be asked to intervene in what is believed to be plans to fire hundreds of employees in order to pay collusion fines, construction union United Association of South Africa (UASA) said on Friday.

The union's Leon Grobler is concerned workers will be fired in order to raise funds to pay the R1.4 billion fines issued to 15 firms by the Competition Commission.

"I think it's a pity that workers are the ones that are suffering for the misbehaviour of bosses."

Grobler says they hope to get a rule in place which forbids companies from retrenching workers for a certain period after being fined.

The commission reached the settlement agreement with the companies after they admitted to colluding on projects, including the construction of the 2010 FIFA World Cup stadiums and the Gautrain.

On Wednesday and Thursday, a hearing was held to assess the deal in the Competition Tribunal.

The commission's Trudi Makhaya said companies were forced to answer tough questions.

The tribunal questioned firms about how they disguised "loser fees" and whether they punished those implicated in collusion.

She said while some companies showed genuine remorse, others appeared to try and justify their actions.

The CEO of one of the guilty companies asked South Africans for forgiveness.

Murray & Roberts CEO Henry Laas said there was nothing left to do but apologise.

"Murray & Roberts is a household name in South Africa and it has played a significant role for more than 110 years in establishing South Africa's infrastructure. This is the bleakest moment in its history."

The commission says a final ruling may take longer than normal because of the number of companies and documents involved.