Top boilermaker accused of racism

AN ENGINEERING firm that manufactures and supplies boilers to the likes of Sasol and Eskom is accused of racism.

Department of Labour officials are expected to attend a mass meeting at Steinmüller's Pretoria plant where employees claim verbal, derogatory and hate speech is being used against them. Steinmüller employs about 800 people at the plant and has another plant in Mpumalanga.

The mass meeting, which was organised by Amos Mbhele of the National Health and Allied Workers Union, comes after a series of meetings with company management "yielded no results".

Mbhele said their grievances gained momentum after Musa Nkosi was fired after laying a charge against a senior colleague Geoff Williams who allegedly called him a "k..." in November last year.

Mbhele said though the workers fell under the jurisdiction of the National Union of Metalworkers of SA, they could not leave members of their fellow trade federation Cosatu's affiliate to face the wrath of racism alone.

Another grievance stemmed from a situation in which workers were offered three months' contracts and denied permanent employment.

"The main bone of contention is the treatment employees of the company are getting from their supervisors and superintendents and the pace at which senior management responds to their complaints," Mbhele said.

According to a company statement issued yesterday, a hearing was conducted on the Nkosi matter and the panel responsible could not find enough evidence that abusive or derogatory language was used.

"The panel therefore found Williams not guilty," the company said.

David Peel, general manager for resources at Steinmüller, said his company had no regard for racist and discriminatory conduct.