South Africa

‘Smear campaign’ – Numsa accuses Putco of dumping human waste near depot to intimidate workers

Putco Bus faeces

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) has accused bus company Putco of dumping human waste near a depot in Nancefield, Soweto, to intimidate suspended workers.

According to Numsa, Putco suspended at least 120 workers over the 2022 work stoppage after the bus company allegedly refused to pay a 6% wage increase and bonus.

The suspended workers are required to report to Putco premises without performing any duties to ensure they attend disciplinary hearings.

ALSO READ: Commuters feel like pawns in Putco’s bid to get paid

The union will march to the bus company’s office in Sandton on Friday to “expose the racist company for its cruel treatment of African workers”.

Numsa accused Putco of trying to dodge the salary increase and bonuses by “falsely” pleading poverty.

The bus company is also accused of mistreating workers by withholding their salaries if they cannot go to work due to an illness, even when they produce medical certificates.

“They have made the unfair and unreasonable demand that if a worker is sick, then doctors must provide an affidavit with the details of the workers’ condition before they will pay their salaries. That is an abuse of power, and a flagrant violation of privacy,” said Numsa.

ALSO READ: Payment dispute between Putco and Gauteng leaves commuters stranded

“Putco is so cruel, that it even withheld the salary of a man who was hospitalised during his suspension, because he was a victim of crime and had been shot and was in serious condition. They did not pay his salary in full even though they knew he was in ICU recovering from gunshot wounds.”

Putco employees also experience unlawful salary deductions, and the bus company never provides explanations for it, claimed Numsa.

“We have reports where some members have been short paid amounts of R3 000 or in some cases, R6 000,” claimed Numsa.

On Wednesday, Numsa accused Putco of dumping faeces in a residential area “as part of its reign of terror against suspended workers”.

The bus company has not provided decent toilets, “they are forced to use portable toilets”.

“We have seen disturbing video footage of the portable toilets. Our members at the depot in Nancefield in Soweto are alleging that Putco empties out the portable toilets in an open field a few metres from where they are forced to sit and this is in a residential area.

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“It seems it is illegally dumping waste material in a residential area, and because of the heat, the stench of the waste is permanently in the air. It affects our members and the surrounding community. All of this is done because Putco refuses to allow these workers to use decent toilets in the building.”

Putco dismisses ‘absurd’ allegations

The bus company has denied the allegations that it dumps human waste on one of the premises where the suspended workers are stationed during working hours, calling it a smear campaign against the company.

“Putco would like to categorically state that this statement is a blatant lie. Our investigation has revealed that the mobile toilet depicted in the video was reported as faulty with a water leak and did not contain any human waste,” said Putco.

ALSO READ: National shutdown: Putco forced to suspend operations

“At the time the video was taken on 18 February 2024, the service provider had just delivered a new unit and was transporting the leaking one out of the depot. A formal report by the external service provider explains that the driver was draining the remaining water from the faulty unit, to make it safe while driving, before removing it from our premises.”

Putco slammed Numsa for its “desperate attempt” to garner public support for employees who are facing charges of misconduct such as intimidating non-striking employees and damage to property.

Salary increases

Putco says it did not plead “false poverty”, but did experience the financial impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

On withholding salaries of employees who report sick, Putco said it did so after observing “an increasing pattern of suspended employees presenting medical certificates covering extended periods and initiated an investigation into the validity of these certificates”.

WATCH: Five buses torched at Nancefield Putco depot

“The Company uncovered fraudulent certificates submitted by suspended employees and a syndicate practitioner who issues medical certificates without examining patients for a set fee. Putco implemented a medical certificate verification process for suspended workers, requiring submission of an affidavit alongside sick notes. Those who have completed the process will be paid in full.”

The company further deducted salaries from employees who were absent without authorisation or approved sick leave.

“Numsa has referred this matter to the CCMA, and it is before the Commission through the Section 73 inquiry.”