OPEN LETTER TO SOUTH AFRICA TO SET THE RECORD STRAIGHT ABOUT ILLEGAL STRIKES, CRIMINAL ACTIVITIES, BURNING TRUCKS & SHOOTING OF DRIVERS
BY ARNOUX MARÉ, MD OF INNOVATIVE STAFFING SOLUTIONS
Dear South Africa, Members of the Media, Members of the Transport Sector & to all Essential Services Providers
As social media has been filled with single-sided stories about unfair labour relations at the recent EPS Couriers strike (which was handled 100% legally, as I have clarified below), allow me to tell the complete story, including the fact that the High Court ruled in Innovative Staffing Solutions’ (ISS) favour yesterday.
Also, allow me to tell you that our ISS employees are being targeted by organised criminals who have now shot at our drivers on four separate occasions. Unfortunately, and heartbreakingly so, the criminals attacked two of our drivers last night and shot and severely injured one employee. They were on duty, transporting essential goods to keep South Africans alive and healthy, and our economy moving. The driver (who will remain anonymous for his own protection) is currently fighting for his life in ICU, and ISS will do everything in our power to provide whatever support is required. We are keeping him in our thoughts and our prayers, and we ask that South Africa does the same.
Yesterday afternoon, 13 May 2020, the Honourable Judge Justice Mabuse, ruled that the EPS Couriers strike was illegal and that unions and their members needed to stay clear of ISS and our clients’ premises and that staff intimidation would not be tolerated. Unfortunately, last night a group of criminals involved in what we believe to be vengeance attacks shot at our drivers and left one of them for dead but not before photographs were taken and sent to social media channels, who sensationally used the images. Not a thought was spared for the innocent employee who was hit and seriously injured, who was merely performing his duties to ensure essential goods arrived at the determined destinations – to keep you and I, and our families, fed and healthy. We appeal to all social media owners and the media, to not upload unverified photographs or of victims of violence, as it shows no regard for the individuals, in this case the seriously injured driver. Imagine the absolute trauma his family and loved ones are facing seeing images of their bloodied husband, father, brother or son all over the internet.
While we understand and totally agree that the public has the right to know, we believe that it has the right to know both sides of the story before they make a judgement call that one party, the employer, is automatically in the wrong.
Yes, social media also reported on the 13 trucks that were burnt out by some of the ex-employees who were based at EPS, and earlier today, another two EPS trucks were torched on the N3, bringing the total to 15, but what it does not show is how this criminal act of vandalism and arson, also destroyed essential food supplies; negatively impacted the economy by taking 15 trucks out of operation; which further impacted the jobs of the drivers, packers and logistics people who helped keep the trucks on the road and the economy active.
As a result of these acts of arson and attacks on our drivers, Innovative Staffing Solution will be deploying unmarked vehicles with armed security guards to ensure the safety of all our drivers and their essential goods cargo.
What proved to be an illegal protest on 4 May, has now turned into a criminal act.
Here’s a bit more context for those of you may not be in the know.
Innovative Staffing Solutions and EPS Couriers signed an agreement that would see EPS drivers transferred to Innovative Staffing Solutions’ as their new permanent employers, without a break in service or loss of benefits – they actually gained more including a comprehensive medical aid and pension plan.
Both Unions: South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (SATAWU) and TIRISANO Transport Services signed the collective agreement on behalf of their members that they were satisfied with the ISS and EPS agreement.
Innovative Staffing Solutions is not new to this game and has over 19,000 permanent employees who work for us, whom we then outsource to our clients to perform a specific duty. Our arrangement with our clients is simple: if they no longer want the services of ISS, we simply return our full time employees to ISS and reassign them to a new client – as an outsourced staff member. All our employees are professional enough to understand that while they are in the permanent employ of ISS, they operate on behalf of the client and wear both employers’ hats with pride.
However, a group of renegades, who would not accept that their Unions approved the collective agreement, decided that they would protest this move and start intimidating those workers that were happy with the new employment arrangement.
Despite numerous requests from Innovative Staffing Solutions’ executives that the illegal strikers vacate the premises and accept the outcome of their unions’ agreements, they continued with unprotected industrial action.
When employees refused and started taunting executives and security, the independent security company hired to protect the employees, the company and the client’s premises, fired warning shots with rubber bullets. However, when several truck drivers attempted to loot essential goods in the warehouses, the security personnel fired rubber bullets in the direction of the looters to discourage their illegal activities.
When the strike was deemed illegal by the High Court and the staff involved were suspended and subsequently fired, this break-away group of 65 employees decided to resort to more heinous methods such as the burning the 13 trucks, assaulting and intimidating employees who made the decision to continue working as per the agreement between ISS, SATAWU and TIRISANO.
While we cannot pin the four separate shootings on any group or individual as SAPS is currently investigating the matter, the reality is that ISS’ drivers are being victimised, harassed, intimidated, injured and shot for performing their duties as essential drivers that deliver necessary items such as food, medical supplies and fuel across South Africa. The police are confident that arrests for attempted murder and other monstrous crimes will be made soon.
Of the 19,000 employees under Innovative Staffing Solutions, 8,500 are essential truck drivers. If all these employees decided to stop working because they feared for their lives, where would that place the rest of the country?
Fortunately, Innovative Staffing Solutions has been granted an interdict court order that will force these independent employees to leave South Africa’s truck drivers, our depot staff and our essential goods and services alone.
South Africa is still a country governed by the law and no criminals will be left to just endanger and inconvenience the lives of the innocent.
However, as an essential services provider to our transport clients, we have a duty to all South Africans to ensure they receive their necessities, especially during COVID-19. While it has been excessively challenging for our staff to perform their duties, I can assure you, that my ISS team of 19,000 employees and myself remain as committed as always to protect our clients’ interests and will continue doing so, even when times are tough or conditions are threatening. Innovative Staffing Solutions will never sit idly or endorse criminal elements that threaten to cripple our duty and commitment to our dedicated employees, our clients and our country’s economy.
As a proudly South African business, we work shoulder-to-shoulder with our clients to ensure we add value to their business, and our country, especially in times of crises.
MD of Innovative Staffing Solutions