SAA 'trying to sweep racism complaint under the carpet'

South African Airways Technical is trying to sweep a racism complaint under the carpet, trade union Solidarity claimed on Monday.

“A black employee hurled racist remarks at another employee in August this year, saying that he could not stand white people and also could not stand working with white people,” said Solidarity spokesperson Jaco Kleynhans in a statement.

Solidarity criticised the company’s decision not to take disciplinary action against the employee.

The union said it gave the company three days last week to take “the correct disciplinary action”, but instead the employee in question was only warned about his remarks and management now regarded the issue as concluded.

“These statements were aimed directly and in an insulting and racist manner at the person’s white colleague and white people in general ... It is nothing less than blatant racism.”

Shortly after the incident, the member submitted a grievance to the employer, but the employer decided not to follow the disciplinary procedures as prescribed for complaints about racist behaviour, the union said.

“According to SAA Technical’s disciplinary code, a charge of racism is grounds for immediate suspension, after which the applicable disciplinary action must be taken,” the union said.

It said the company had earlier indicated that it preferred employing mediation as an alternative to disciplinary action.

“The disciplinary route simply has to be followed and directives cannot be ignored at will,” Solidarity said.

It said racism was not a mild charge, and therefore no employer could afford to take it lightly.

“Mild action sends the message to employees that it is acceptable to infringe on the human dignity of others with racist remarks,” Kleynhans said.

“Management reiterated to Solidarity that the member is in fact entitled to take the matter further internally, but this is meaningless,” Kleynhans said.

He said the member had already tackled the correct internal procedure, but that management had not followed the correct disciplinary route and was now trying to “sweep a serious case of racism under the carpet”.

Commenting on Solidarity’s statement, SAA Technical said it could confirm that an incident involving alleged racist remarks took place.

“This incident was handled according to SAA Technical’s normal disciplinary codes of conduct and was satisfactorily resolved according to the company,” said Robyn Chalmers, head of group corporate affairs.

“SAA Technical’s disciplinary code of conduct also allows any staff member who is dissatisfied with the outcome to further pursue a grievance following our internal processes,” she said.—Sapa

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