The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) in the Moses Kotane region in North West has threatened to make 2017 a difficult year for holiday resort Sun City, accusing it of undermining black lives after allegations surfaced that food meant for the staff canteen was stored in a "condemned" basement with pipes apparently leaking sewage.
"Most of the workers using the Royal Mandi Canteen are mostly poor African black employees so they undermine black lives," regional secretary Madito waga Molebalwa said.
Sun International has denied the claims of a sewage leak and that food was contaminated, saying staff submitted deliberately misleading photographs to bolster their allegations.
Cosatu said it was mobilising its alliance partners, the ANC, South African Communist Party (SACP) and South African National Civic Organisation (Sanco) to embark on mass action against the resort.
It is demanding that the resort's Group Executive, Raul de Lima, be sacked immediately.
The union also wants a public apology and for all workers to be compensated.
"We are very much aggrieved. We have been holding meetings with our alliance partners in Moses Kotane, the ANC, SACP and Sanco, and we are planning to make 2017 a very difficult year for Sun City," Molebalwa told News24.
Molebalwa said they were angry that the company went ahead and stored the food in the basement, despite warnings from senior managers and problems with the area in the past. When Cosatu wrote a letter of complaint, it was met with "arrogance and rudeness".
In a letter seen by News24, the human resources group executive appeared to refuse to engage with Cosatu, accusing it of jeopardising Sun City's relationship with the South Africa Commercial, Catering and Allied Workers Union, an affiliate of Cosatu.
"We have previously communicated that we do not intend to respond to communications or publications made by you. Our right to take legal action is however fully reserved," the group human resources manager wrote to Cosatu.
An internal safety report showed that the basement was used for maintenance last year before it was abandoned because of a "continuous flood of sewage blockage."
A video apparently showing the leaking pipes, with maize meal, cold drinks and boxes of crisps on the floor, has also since emerged.
Frustrated senior managers also penned a document entitled "Aikona", claiming that De Lima had insisted that the food be moved to the basement despite "outcries and objections from numerous parties not to proceed".
It said that as many as nine senior managers had expressed concern that staff got food that was stored in a room that was contaminated with deadly bacteria, germs, filth and an unbearable stench.
However, Sun International has denied that any food was contaminated at the resort, but admits that there was what it calls a "grey water" leak. Grey water is by-product of water that is used for cleaning.
It has also dismissed claims by Cosatu and some employees that workers got sick – saying the food that was in the room at the time of the leak was destroyed.
Cosatu said it was currently compiling medical reports of workers affected, to prove that some suffered diarrhoea while the food was stored in the basement from November to December 9.
In response to a News24 question on whether the company had taken any action against any employees, Sun International said it was still "investigating all aspects of the issue and if necessary appropriate action will be taken".
It commissioned an expert study based on the contamination claims, which it said proved that the video showing alleged sewage, in fact showed grey water.
Sun International said photographs submitted by staff were also deliberately misleading - these were not taken in the affected area and were captioned incorrectly.
The commissioned report, dated Friday and based on an inspection by "MEP Project Manager", the main contractor for "Sun Central Project", said an existing drain pipe was identified as a grey water pipe.
"Dirt marks on wall also seem to come from a prior leak/spillage as there is evidence of repairs having been executed," it said.
The report said a fresh water line, connected directly to the main water supply line, started leaking at a 90 degree bend in early December and a temporary drain pan was installed.
Sun International reiterated that no food was contaminated and that no employee reported being ill to the on-site clinic. -- News24Wire