Publication: Cape Times Issued: Date: 2003-01-31 Reporter: Lindiz Van Zilla

Court Tells Denel to Hold Fire Against Worker



Cape Times

Date 2003-01-31


Lindiz Van Zilla

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The Labour Court has ruled that arms manufacturer Denel hold off its disciplinary proceedings against a senior employee, who was suspended in November last year, days after reporting serious irregularities at the company's Swartklip plant.

Safety manager Keith Grieve brought the Labour Court application to have his suspension overturned on the basis that he should be protected in terms of the "whistle-blower's" Act.

The Labour Court handed down an interdict on Thursday preventing Denel from proceeding with a disciplinary hearing against Grieve before the outcome of a Labour Court trial in which Grieve will argue that he should be afforded protection in terms of the Act.

Late last year Grieve alleged that "preferential treatment" was given to relatives and acquaintances of employees. In papers before the court Grieve alleged that the secretary of the general manager had undertaken an all-expenses paid trip to the United States.

"I stand to achieve no personal benefit from having made these disclosures"

According to Grieve, the 10-day trip was ostensibly to recover certain Swartklip stock, but the woman allegedly spent six of the 10 days visiting a friend in Miami and also stopped over at Disneyland in Florida.

Grieve alleged that the R40 000 overseas trip was entirely paid for by Denel and upon her return the personal assistant also claimed a further R11 000 in expenses.

He also alleged that a number of contracts for work to be carried out at Denel were awarded to relatives of employees without a proper tendering process.

Grieve reported these suspicions to two senior Denel officers on November 14 and 15, but five days later was suspended from his duties with immediate effect.

Grieve took his case to the Labour Court, contending that the disclosures were made in terms of the Protected Disclosures Act of 2000, which was designed to offer protection to employees who "ratted" on criminal or irregular practices within their companies.

He said : "I stand to achieve no personal benefit from having made these disclosures and they were made in good faith."

Shortly thereafter Denel instituted disciplinary proceedings against Grieve, who was charged with misconduct relating to "abuse of company facilities in that you repeatedly and extensively visited pornographic sites on the Internet through the company's computer systems".

He was also charged with racism.

But the Labour Court ruled that Grieve had presented a prima facie case in establishing a link between the misconduct charges and the fact that he made the disclosures.

The Labour Court judgment said : "The timing supports his (Grieve's) complaint ... "

A date has yet to be set for the Labour Court trial.

With acknowledgements to Lindiz Van Zilla and Cape Times.