If you’re planning to march in a planned national shutdown on Friday‚ get it cleared with your boss.
That’s the directive from some companies and organisations who have warned employees who plan to protest against the cabinet reshuffle that Friday is a normal working day.
In a circular issued to staff on Tuesday‚ Ethekwini municipality acting city manager‚ Philemon Mashoko told employees that those who chose to participate in the mass action without authorised leave‚ would have to face the consequences of “no work‚ no pay”.
He warned that contributions‚ including medical aid and pensions‚ could be affected and that leave would only be approved based on the operational requirements of the various departments.
Multinational Unilever reminded employees that while they were aware that some would want to participate in the protests‚ aimed at demonstrating a show of no-confidence in President Jacob Zuma‚ it was a “normal working day”. The email issued on Tuesday urged employees to be cautious and safe.
A national media company told employees that they could participate in the protest action during their lunch hour or alternatively take a day’s leave. The company also suggested that if employees were concerned about their safety‚ they could consider working from home.
“People who participate in marches are reminded of their obligations to the company; to refrain from wearing any company branding‚ and also to refrain from associating our brands with their activities on any social media platforms‚” staff were told.
Michael Maeso‚ head of Employment and Pension Law at Shepstone & Wylie said employees should not automatically assume that they had the right to leave work to participate in the proposed action on Friday.
“Any absence from work that is not authorized by the employer constitutes misconduct and entitles the employer to take disciplinary action against the employee. The type of sanction that can result varies but can include dismissal if the employer is able to show significant inconvenience caused as a result of the employee’s absence and/or if the absence was in defiance of an express instruction to attend work.”
The Labour Relations Act‚ he said‚ gave every employee who is not engaged in an essential service‚ the right to take part in protest action for the purpose of promoting or defending the socio economic interests of workers. Participation in a political rally may not qualify for this protection unless socio economic interests of workers are affected.
“Before employees can claim this right they must satisfy a number of conditions and the protest must have been called by a registered trade union or federation of trade unions.
“What is of grave importance for Friday’s activities is that any protected protest action must have first been considered by NEDLAC ( National Economic Development and Labour Council ) and 14 days notice must be given to NEDLAC of the intended protest. At this level alone employees will not be able to rely on this right to escape disciplinary action should they not attend work on Friday without authorization.”
Marches have been planned across the country‚ including major cities such as Cape Town‚ Pretoria‚ Gauteng and Durban.
Government on Tuesday condemned the planned protest‚ saying that calls for a shutdown of the country could have “unexpected consequences for our fragile economy‚ business and communities”.
“Whilst the public has a democratic right to embark on protest action‚ government does not support acts of civil disobedience and the actions of a select few to infringe on the constitutional rights of the majority” said Acting DG‚ Donald Liphoko.
“The social media messages are sent to bring the image of SA into disrepute. The social media messages are sent to disturb the economy and to create the impression of disorder and fear in communities. Civil society organizations‚ business and society at large are encouraged to work with Government in strengthening our democracy to create a better SA.”