Seven ANN7 reporters were denied legal representation at the start of their disciplinary hearings, one of them said on Thursday.
The journalist, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said they arrived at the hearing with lawyers in tow on Wednesday. The employer told them they were not allowed representation. They asked for a postponement, but that too was refused.
The seven have been charged with offences including picketing, ill discipline and singing inflammatory songs on the company’s premises.
Neither the broadcaster nor its owner, Oakbay Investments, could be reached for comment.
The reporter said the company argued that the employees took part in an illegal picket after the Communication Workers Union (CWU) misled them.
“They put the argument that the seven charges have to stick because the union deceived employees, and that the picket rules and applications were not properly followed. As a result it was an illegal picket, constituting a protest,” the reporter said.
“Workers are frustrated and there was no way workers could not picket to support nine of their colleagues that were dismissed.”
On June 29, 11 employees picketed outside the company gates after nine of their colleagues were suspended and fired for chasing ANC Youth League leader Collen Maine off the premises.
He visited Oakbay’s offices to hear about employee concerns. They allegedly shouted “Maine must fall” as he made his way back to his car. He said he had received an open letter from Oakbay employees, addressed to the ANCYL and the ad hoc committee on finance in Parliament. In it, they asked Absa to reopen Oakbay’s bank account for the sake of its employees.
The country’s major banks all refused to continue doing business with the Gupta-owned company following allegations that the family was influencing Cabinet appointments.
CWU president Clyde Marvin said they had written to management to ask for a meeting before the next hearings on Friday. They would ask for a postponement so the workers could be represented. Their rights were being infringed, he said.
The SACP in Gauteng said they would protests outside the company’s offices in solidarity with the workers on Friday. The party’s Gauteng secretary Jacob Mamabolo said the Gupta-owned company was undermining labour laws.