22 December 2017


The union has been reliably informed that Spintex plan to take disciplinary action against workers on allegations that workers engaged in an illegal strike action on the 04th of December 2017. The strike imaginary and self-created”. ATUSWA statement dated 09 December 2017

The Amalgamated Trade Union of Swaziland is amazed at the level of dishonesty with which Spintex want to approach the mess it self-created. Beyond the public sympathy that management is so desperate to have lies legal obligations that the company will not escape.

It is worrying but not surprising that Spintex management refuse to take responsibility for the mess it created for failing adhere to sound labour relations. However, this should be expected from a company which is advised by people with outdated strategies, failure to understand simple legal arguments and refusing to accept mistakes.

Towards end of September 2017, Spintex management dropped a bombshell on the union and its members when it communicated that the shareholder has taken a decision to;
1. Shut down the business completely and or,
2. Cut the staff complement by half and agree on the method and time for the payment terminal benefits of the dismissed workers “because the company did not have money to pay immediately”.
Spintex senior management thereafter informed the union that despite the position taken by the shareholder, they were prepared to save the company if the union were to work with them. Management proposed that we cut costs but doing away with overtime, something that was received by the union with an open mind and with open hands.
The problem started when management erroneously communicated to the shareholder that the company would pay an average of 192 hours per month, a position that the company insisted should be part of the settlement agreement. Our position was and still remain that the average hours per month is 208 hours if a worker work for 48 hours per week. But because management had already communicated the 192 hours to the shareholder it was impossible to accept reality.
After protracted negotiations an agreement was reached between the company and the union that a competent body should be approached by the union for purposes of guiding parties on the correct legal position. ATUSWA requested CMAC guidance through a letter that was copied to the company. Out of the blue the union received a call requesting for an urgent meeting and in the meeting we found the Commissioner of Labour, who was invited to advise the company and the union on the same matter. Unfortunately the Commissioner of Labour’s advice in confirming the 192 hours as the correct position could not be accepted by our organization because we have strong views on why we think the average monthly hours of work is 208 hours for a worker who works for 48 hours per week.
Buoyed by the Commissioner of Labour’s advice management pushed for implementation of the new shift system. While we were waiting for a written advice as required by law and requested by CMAC the company and the union continued discussions in recognition of the fact that a solution lied between the two parties being the Spintex and ATUSWA.
After realizing that the issue of average hours per month completely confused management, we decided to debate the issue at the management’s level by focusing on hours of work per week to which we signed an agreement to the effect that each worker would be paid 48 hours per week regardless of whether that worker has worked 48 hours or not. This was to protect the workers minimum monthly wages. Spintex was at liberty to reduce hours of work for as long as workers would still earn wages equal to wages they would have earned had they worked 48 hours, meaning if the company could not provide work for 48 hours per week the company could either pay the remainder of hours to make 48 hours or increase hourly rate so that each worker get the same amount in wages as he/she would have earned had the worker worked for 48 hours in a particular week.

The agreement that was signed by the union and the company on hours of work guaranteed an average of 208 hours per month, something that was hard to comprehend by the Spintex management as led by its advisor even after we tried very hard to school the company. The math’s was as follows;
48 hours per week x 52 weeks per annum ÷ 12 months per year = 208 hours.
48 hours per week × 4.33 weeks per month = 207.84 hours.

Despite our explanation when some workers approached management for clarity the company insisted that it would pay 192 hours per month which then polarized the situation. The confusion stemmed from the fact that in implementing the 4 x 12 hours shift workers from time to time would end up working 36 hours per week and therefore the 192 hours per month would have been a reality. Management ignorance fanned this confusion by insisting on the average of 192 hours when confronted by workers even after an agreement on guaranteed 48 hours was signed and sealed. Even after we advised management to refer workers who have questions to the union and or the Shop stewards management refused to take that advice.
If the company should blame anyone at all, it should blame itself for engaging bogus advisors and fake Industrial Relations practitioners who fail to appreciate and comprehend simple legal reality. It is also management of the company that went out of its way in portraying their shareholder as someone who is negative and want nothing to do with the company and more. We were told by management in formal meetings, which some were attended by the Commissioner of Labour himself that the shareholder wanted to see the company closed and that he was waiting for an opening which he would use as a reason to “shut it”.
In as much as the police must and should investigate the workers for the inferno, we believe the company bosses should be investigated too. The issue of the alleged strike action is sheer imagination and desperate attempts by the company to hide it failures. Blaming the leadership of the union is laughable to say the least. If there is something that we dislike the most is taking a populist posture and that is what led to a situation where some of our officials faces opposition from our members. Our principled position was that the employer should not be forced to give us overtime in the same manner as the employer should not be allowed to force workers to do overtime. We are 110% sure that even if it were to be found that it was a worker or a group of workers who burned the factory, the union will not be implicated in anyway because our hands are clean.
Spintex management must man up and face reality. There is absolutely no way the company would escape its responsibility to its employees who are unfortunately for the company, are our members. Beyond the blame-game someone must account for what happened. We still insist that the company should communicate with its employees

Signed by
Wander Mkhonza

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