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ITF unions challenge dismissal of maintenance engineer who alleged racism

10 Jul 2014

The ITF is taking action to support a Swaziland Airlink engineer, who has been dismissed after reporting an alleged racist incident at the hands of a white cabin crew member.

Vusi Nxumalo, who was based in Johannesburg when the alleged incident took place in January 2013, filed a grievance reporting that he had been the victim of harassment, manhandling and offensive, racist language. 

Following the hearing, the cabin crew member - who is employed by South African Airlink, a partner of Swaziland Airlink - received a written warning for manhandling Mr Nxumalo. However the engineer`s racism claim was thrown out as false. Mr Nxumalo was then accused of submitting a false statement and of gross insolence towards the cabin crew member. His union, the ITF-affiliated Swaziland Transport and Allied Workers’ Union (STAWU) successfully represented him and he was cleared of both charges - but he remained suspended, despite further solidarity support by STAWU and sister affiliate the South African Transport & Allied Workers’ Union (SATAWU).

Finally, Swaziland Airlink wrote to inform Mr Nxumalo of its decision to terminate his employment, saying South African Airlink - to whom it claims he was seconded - had lost confidence in him.

The contention of the ITF and STAWU is that serious irregularities have occurred in the events leading up to Mr Nxumalo’s dismissal. In the first place, they argue, he had not been seconded to South African Airlink at all, but, like all other Swaziland Airlink maintenance engineers, was based in Johannesburg to work on aircraft fully leased to the Swazi company. Moreover, no written record of the initial grievance hearing has been issued; company and legal codes empowering employees to file grievances have been disregarded; and a legal obligation on the part of the employer to consult with an employee and/or his union in an attempt at mitigation before any termination has been ignored.

In a letter to the management of Swaziland Airlink on 13 November, ITF civil aviation secretary Gabriel Mocho warned the ITF was ready to mobilise publicity and international solidarity in support of Mr Nxumalo.

ITF African regional secretary Joe Katende said: “ITF Africa affiliates embrace the culture of ‘an injury to one is an injury to all’, and will fight for him to the successful end.”
Read more about ITF affiliates in Swaziland at - solidarity in Swaziland


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