“They were dismissed due to serious unacceptable behaviour, which constitutes gross misconduct,” said spokesperson Leah Eckles.
This is because they took part in an unprotected or illegal strike and did not report for duty for more than five consecutive days since the first day of the strike on 15 October.
“As per our company’s Disciplinary Code of Conduct, this constitutes desertion,” said Eckles.
The company had in the meantime hired 60 new drivers, promoted some general workers to drivers if they had the skills, and has received 150 CVs in response to its advertisement to replace the fired drivers.
The company has also used a labour broker to supply more drivers.
Eckles said the strike had not only caused major financial losses for all parties involved, but it has disrupted communities, pitted striking and non-striking drivers against each other, and caused family problems for the drivers who have been fired.
However, in spite of this, the company did not get into negotiations with drivers because it feels it pays above market rate and is the highest-paying Vehicle Operating Company (VOC) out of the four appointed by the city, she claimed.
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During the strike, the fallout over the resignation of former Mayor Patricia De Lille also saw her MMC for Transport, Brett Herron, resign.
When Mayor Dan Plato was sworn in, Felicity Purchase was put in charge of transport and urban development.
Purchase said that although the drivers work for the VOC, not the city, the city organised a facilitators to help resolve the strike, but it did not work.
She said there was an agreement signed in May that not only sealed pay, but also contained a clause that there would be no more strikes until the end of March 2020.
In terms of labour law, those who went back to work were given written warnings, but those who did not return for two weeks and did not attend disciplinary hearings were fired, she said.
Workers could go to the Commission for Conciliation Mediation and Arbitration if they wanted to, she added.
One of the strike leaders Patrick Mabindisa told News24 the drivers felt “lied to”, because they had been promised that their grievances would be heard by Plato and Purchase and that the SA Human Rights Commission would try to assist them.
They insist that they want to be insourced, and are also fed up with the different rates of pay that drivers get in the convoluted arrangements between the VOCs and the City of Cape Town.
He said their dismissal took them by surprise, claiming they were told via WhatsApp to be at a disciplinary hearing at a venue from which they were not allowed to be within 500m in terms of an interdict.
He added that 45 drivers from another VOC were also fired. This could not immediately be confirmed.
“One person is feeding eight people in his house. He does not even have electricity. There are people in the Eastern Cape who depend on us. I am struggling. There is nothing for the children.”
Workers planned to continue their picket near the Civic Centre on Wednesday.