On Wednesday SA Rugby’s President, Oregan Hoskins received a written demand from one of South Africa’s leading labour attorneys, Jacques Jansen of Jansens Inc, advising SA Rugby that they have received a mandate from personnel and players formerly of the Southern Spears, to recover unpaid salaries, leave pay, notice pay and outstanding bonuses from SA Rugby, totalling R4m and that prior to and subsequent to the termination of their employment, SA Rugby has not complied with the law regarding the basic conditions of employment.
The Southern Spears, made up of the 3 rugby unions of the Southern and Eastern cape Rugby regions, were awarded the 6th South African Super 14 rugby franchise by SA Rugby on the 8th June 2005.
This was contained in a collective SA Rugby Franchise Participation Agreement, between SA Rugby and the 5 other South African franchises, the Bulls, Cheetahs, Sharks, Lions, Stormers, as well as the Southern Spears, which commenced the 1st January 2006 and runs through to 31st May 2010.
SA Rugby’s Presidents Council bound themselves in a unanimous Resolution on the 8th June 2005, to financially support the Southern Spears for the year 2006 only.
Thereafter, the Southern Spears were included in the Super 14 competition for the years 2007 and 2008.
When SA Rugby reneged on the agreement in March 2006, the Southern Spears challenged this in the Cape High Court and Judge Dennis Davis ruled in favour of the Spears on the 4th August 2006 and declared the agreement legal and binding.
All 27 Southern Spears players and personnel, including the current Springbok Coach Peter de Villiers, received salaries and payslips from SA Rugby until March 2006, thereafter SA Rugby unilaterally terminated payment of salaries to the Spears players and personnel.
Jacques Jansen said, “An employer like SA Rugby, who we are instructed, has wilfully ignored labour legislation with impunity, are acting unlawfully.
“The players and personnel concerned were without question SA Rugby employees, who were paid by SA Rugby, received SA Rugby payslips, IRP5 certificates and consequently became the victims of these unlawful actions, by SA Rugby.
“They and their families have suffered enormous distress and financial hardship as a result of SA Rugby’s violation of labour law. Employers simply must employ responsibly and comply with our labour laws, failing which they face dire consequences.
“In the event that SA Rugby fails to resolve this dispute, they face defending some 150 applications that will be brought against SA Rugby. We will not hesitate to assist and represent these employees in the Labour Court in order to bring them some solace after this ordeal”
Tony McKeever (pictured), past CEO of the Southern Spears said, “Not only has SA Rugby violated their own constitution by failing to bind its members and unions to this unanimous Presidents Council resolution, which in itself is deplorable, SA Rugby has also breached its very own Super 14 franchise participation agreement from 2006-2010 and face the prospect of the 2009 Super 14 competition being stopped by urgent interdict on January 09, unless of course this matter is resolved by the Presidents Council.
“If they are unable to do that, SA Rugby, in terms of the SANZAR broadcasters agreement will face multiple damages and loss claims from their SANZAR partners, broadcasters and sponsors, that will run into hundreds of millions of Rands and be fatal to the organisation as we know it today.
“It is sheer lunacy that SA Rugby has spent R27.1m to keep the Spears out of the Super 14, which would have been far better allocated to building the game of rugby in South Africa and the Southern Hemisphere, rather than destroying it.
“Six weeks ago I submitted a solution to SA Rugby that remedies this Spears/SA Rugby dispute within days and at no cost to SA Rugby, which is precisely what Regan Hoskins asked of me.”.