Workers in the City of Cape Town have threatened to approach the Equality Court because they are unhappy with the outcome of a disciplinary hearing for a manager who allegedly referred to them as “monkeys”.
The City says it will look into the issues raised and “act appropriately”.
A grievance was lodged towards the end of 2017 after workers in the electricity department complained to their manager that ablution facilities were locked.
“When confronted by the workers as to why the ablution facilities were locked, the manager responded by saying ‘You monkeys must not think you can take over my section’,” said Municipal and Allied Trade Union of South Africa general secretary Kurt Ziervogel.
Left feeling belittled and demeaned
“The matter was reported to the union as the workers felt demeaned and belittled and made [to] feel less than human. These workers felt that the context within which the remark was made was racist.”
Union organiser Trevor Serfontein explained to News24 on Thursday that between 10 and 15 workers had been sitting in their mess room early in the morning when the remark was made.
At a grievance hearing around November, it was decided the manager should be disciplined, he said.
“Everything just went quiet. Around February we asked again when the disciplinary hearing would take place. It finally happened in March/April.”
The union said the manager was found guilty of making racist remarks and received a three-day suspension and a final written warning.
“He was slapped on the wrist,” said Serfontein.
“At the grievance hearing, we indicated to the person that all we want out of this is that he must be removed from the section. We didn’t ask for his dismissal. But now, the offended persons are feeling differently.
“I have spoken with them and they don’t even want him to work among other people.”
Workers to approach Equality Court
The manager has apparently been working for the City for many years. He has not yet responded to a request for comment.
Ziervogel said the City missed an opportunity to deal effectively with racism in the workplace.
Workers had indicated they would approach the Equality Court if the City did not deal with the matter appropriately going forward.
“We also believe that the City of Cape Town can approach the Labour Court to set aside the chairperson’s findings to redeem themselves,” said Ziervogel.
The City said it condemned any racism and form of discrimination by its employees.
“The City views such conduct as a serious transgression and has consistently dealt with similar matters decisively,” said Jyothi Naidoo.
“We are in the process of studying the disciplinary record.”