By Bongani Hans — Originally published in ioL News
Kentucky Fried Chicken’s Empangeni franchise is being challenged in the Commission for Conciliation Mediation and Arbitration by an axed employee who was fired for bringing non-halaal food to work and who now wants his job back.
The fast-food outlet dismissed Jabulani Cele last month after he had worked for the outlet for six years.
The 31-year-old employee referred the matter to his union, the United Chemical Industries Mining Electrical State Health and Aligned Workers Union, which has taken the matter to the CCMA. It will be heard on August 10.
According to the letter of suspension which the company handed to Cele in March, his offence was bringing non-halaal food to the restaurant premises. He said he had been carrying uphuthu and bean curry in his lunchbox.
The franchise is owned by the Colefax Trading (Pty) Ltd and Yum Restaurants.
Cele, the father of two children, said that throughout his time with KFC, workers had been allowed to bring in their own lunch and eat it in a demarcated staffroom.
But the staffroom had been closed when new owners took over last year and employees had been ordered to keep their lunchboxes outside the building.
He had arrived at work and entered the premises with his lunchbox. “The store manager accused me of breaching the company policy,” he said.
The manager had then reported the matter to the provincial office in Durban, which immediately handed him a final warning letter.
“I need my work back because it was my only means of income which I use to support my family. I still believe I have not committed any offence. It was unfair of the management to force workers to eat their non-halaal food outside the building,” he said.
The warning letter read: “It has been communicated to you that no outside food is allowed to be brought into KFC due to the franchise agreement with Yum Restaurants. This is due to the fact that KFC is halaal.”
Cele was suspended when he refused to sign the letter. He was then found guilty and dismissed in June.
Union provincial secretary Bheki Shabane wrote to the company warning that its action against Cele was unfair and illegal.
He requested that the company review its rules because they were in conflict with the constitution, which promoted non-discrimination based on religion and culture.
Employees also had to be provided with a place where they could sit and eat the food of their choice.
KFC spokeswoman Simone Serebro said Cele’s dismissal was in compliance with the law and was done to preserve the quality of food produced by KFC.
“KFC South Africa has implemented strict policies relating to food safety practices. These procedures are implemented to ensure quality of food and health of staff and customers.
“Disciplinary action in relation to Mr Cele relates to continued contravention of these polices. This action was applied within the strict requirements of the Labour Relations Act,” said Serebro.
A spokesman for the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities, Sipho Mantula, said the employer might have breached freedom of religion and culture.
“It would be advisable for the employee to take the matter to the Equality Court for the presiding officer to decide on the matter,” said Mantula.