‘Pioneer staff can challenge retrenchments’

A local labour lawyer says senior employees enjoy the same rights as blue-collar workers.

A local labour lawyer says senior employees enjoy the same rights as blue-collar workers. Picture: Pioneer Foods (Pty) Ltd

CAPE TOWN - Senior employees facing retrenchments have the right to take the matter to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA), a labour lawyer said on Monday.

This comes as Pioneer Foods revealed plans to cut around 1,000 jobs in senior and middle management.

In August, retailer Pick 'n Pay announced it was reorganising its business, resulting in workers at head office losing jobs.

Speaking on 567 Cape Talk, labour lawyer Michael Bagraim said the two were just some examples of restructuring within local businesses.

"Companies do constantly go ahead with their restructuring and it's a good thing that they go ahead with it. We've been restructuring for the last 20 years in this country, which is good for business. Hopefully, businesses will see a year of profit in 2014. The big thing is that we've been through the retrenchment of blue-collar workers and that took place last year and the year before."

"This year, we've been concentrating on the retrenchments of middle management, senior management and the big earners. It's devastating for them and on many occasions these big companies mess up the retrenchments.

"They don't do it properly. They don't give them [workers] the same rights and unfortunately, it's a myth that people who earn anything up to millions of rands are entitled to the exactly the same rights as any other employee.

"Sometimes, these rights are abused. Sometimes these senior people have fancy lawyers and run cases against the companies for ages. But they are entitled to those rights."

Bagraim said senior managers can challenge their retrenchments.

"There's been a point mooted about a change to the Labour Relations Act where it says if someone is earning in excess of million rand a year, then they shouldn't be entitled to those rights. That was put on the table at Nedlac.

"It seems to be off the table because it's probably unconstitutional. If you have rights because you are earning more than the next man, it doesn't mean you have lesser rights. People are still entitled to challenge their retrenchments."

Several sectors, including the mining industry, cut jobs in order to remain in operation.

This has led to several strikes in recent months.