Edwin Tshivhidzo – BuaNews
THABAZIMBI – The Department of Labour has taken a popular furniture store in Thabazimbi, Limpopo, to the Commission for Conciliation Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) for unfair dismissal of its employees. This action comes after the Department’s inspectors had rescued furniture store employees who were locked inside a warehouse. The inspectors had paid an unannounced visit to the warehouse, acting on a tip-off from members of the public. “During the visit at the store’s warehouse the inspectors found doors locked with workers on duty inside,” said departmental spokesperson Zolisa Sigabi. “Employees who were interviewed confirmed that they are always locked inside and required to use their mobile phones’ short message system (SMS) to request permission to visit the bathrooms,” she said. This was confirmed when one employees used the system to request management’s permission through an SMS in the presence of inspectors, it took them about thirty minutes to respond citing lack of transportation as an excuse. The inspectors immediately issued the employer with a prohibition notice for contravening provisions of the Occupational Health and Safety Act. In terms of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, no person should work in a store without access to an emergency exit facility. In an apparent defiance, the employer, on Wednesday, retaliated by carrying out his earlier threat to “fire” the entire warehouse staff as a result of the inspection. The Department has since referred the matter to the Commission for Conciliation Mediation and Arbitration for unfair dismissal, and is considering pressing for prosecution against the employer. The department’s inspectors continuously conduct work place inspections countrywide to ensure labour law compliance. According to the department, the Occupational Health and Safety Act requires employers bring about and maintain a reasonable practicable work environment that is safe and without risk to the health of the workers.