Article “Constantia Leaves Bitter Aftertaste” – Groot Constantia response
It was with surprise and dismay that we read the article in the Mail & Guardian on Friday 16 March, entitled Constantia Leaves Bitter Aftertaste.
We feel a bit aggrieved at this seemingly biased article in that it is factually incorrect. Below we have outlined the facts to the various allegations being made against Groot Constantia.
We would welcome a visit from Mail & Guardian should you at any time wish to send a journalist to tour our facilities and to attain proof of what we have laid out below.
Health & Safety
- Groot Constantia take Health and Safety issues seriously and we do our utmost to comply with all aspects of the OHSAct. We have been making use of a specialised Health and Safety consultant (for more than 15 years) to advise us on all Health and Safety aspects, including shortfall’s when it arises. We are members of Wieta & IPW and undergo audits with both, who have a strong focus on compliance pertaining to Health & Safety in the workplace.
- A Risk Assessment is currently in place and during November 2017 we engaged with the union and their technical advisor to address the concerns raised on health and safety. In December 2017 an OHS inspection was done with the union, their technical advisor and our Health & Safety consultant. We are still awaiting further communications from the union, as agreed with them, to secure dates for further inspections, also as agreed in our meetings in November 2017.
Incorrect Storage of Flammable Substances
- All chemicals are stored as per the required standard and empty containers are secured by a container cage. Empty containers are removed from the estate as per the required standard and the necessary certificates are issued for our audits.
- All chemical handlers received the necessary training and for this they received certificates as proof of attendance.
- All workers are now compelled to sign for all Personal Protective Clothing to ensure that they were issued with the required protective gear.
- The company is registered with COIDA and all relevant documentation is completed and submitted according to the OHSAct. We had past WCI cases which was reported to the Department of Labour and to date some of these claims have not yet been paid. This is not due to our neglect but due to an existing backlog at the Department of Labour. We are doing weekly follow up regarding their claims and providing regular feedback to the affected parties.
- The company offers all its permanent employees an additional pension fund disability benefit at no extra cost to the employee. Employees who are no longer employed as a result of injuries sustained are currently receiving (75%) seventy five percent of their income. This benefit is over and above the Function Loss Claim that the employee must submit to the DoL.
Blue Water Colour
- It was found that the water was causing a blue stain. Hot and Cold water samples were drawn from the affected areas and sent for lab tests. Results proved that the water is fit for human consumption but we are still busy with applying processes to eliminate the cause of the blue stain.
- The showers installed in the (20) twenty homes was in aid of the drought currently experienced in the Western Cape and not as a remedy to the blue water colour.
- Groot Constantia makes use of various service providers dependant on the seasonal needs of operations on the farm. These services include security, garden services, felling services, pruning, planting, harvesting etc. The workers employed by the service provider vary from contract to contract based on the demand of the contract assigned to them and the deadline.
- A meeting was held with the service provider in question and it was confirmed that employees received their leave pay in full and evidence was presented.
- Groot Constantia provide housing to qualifying staff according to our operational needs. These housing rights are clearly mentioned in their contracts and are protected by the ESTA Act. Groot Constantia are not prepared to increase its obligations in this regard as our current operational needs does not warrant further extension of these obligations.
- We have various request from staff across seniority levels to provide them with housing. Due to our current operational requirements the need does not exist to further extend housing rights that have not existed before. We are however fully committed to adhere to all the obligations in terms of workers that have housing rights.
- The maintenance of farm houses continue to take place in accordance with maintenance schedules and employees will advise the HR Manager in writing of any defects or maintenance requirements when reported or identified. Employees living on the estate also have a running housing committee, which meets once a month with management, whereby any defects or concerns can be reported. Maintenance formed part of our 2017 wage negotiations and the above was accepted.
Groot Constantia is serious about the wellbeing of its employees and it includes and reaches beyond the statutory requirements as the few examples following below can validate.
- Employees have access to transport. Groot Constantia provides transport to 29 kids to 5 different schools (Steenberg, Grassdale, Thomas Wildschutt Primary, Constantia Primary & Simon v.d. Stel), bi-weekly trips for grocery shopping, sport and school activities and in the event of illness of immediate family members.
Groot Constantia furthermore make provision for the following benefits:
- Free accommodation on the estate
- Free electricity and water
- A crèche for their children at no cost. Groot Constantia has invested in a qualified crèche teacher with the purpose of giving input to kids at a very early stage.
- Free after school assistance with homework arranged by Groot Constantia with the assistance of volunteers and recently appointed Anna Foundation due to start in April 2018.
- Groot Constantia is contributing to the Constantia Primary School in various ways. We were instrumental in generating funds for the upgrading of the technology room as well as for painting parts of the school. We are further contributing on an annual basis to the salary of one of the teachers at the school.
- Funds the Groot Constantia athletics club and other wellness activities
- As part of our social upliftment programs on the estate the farm would take the kids out on educational day trips during the school holidays.
- As a company we make a combined effort to strive to employ or provide temporary employment to unemployed matriculates between the ages of 18 to 35 as a means to assist with the reduction of the unemployment rate in this age group.
We hope that armed with further facts as per the above you may see fit to research and draft a follow up article that covers both sides of the story.
Perhaps you can contact me upon reading this response so that we can discuss this further. I look forward to hearing from you.
CEO Groot Constantia