The union representing the Go-Bet workers says it wants the workers to be preferred creditors as the company still owes them their Covid relief money.
More than one hundred Go-Bet workers and their families are facing a bleak Christmas after the company declared it is to be liquidated, leaving workers broke and unemployed. According to the only statement available on the website of the UK-based company, it had to close due to “financial effects of COVID-19 lockdown”. The online gambling company says its efforts to recover did not work.
“Due to the devastating financial effects the COVID-19 lockdown has had on the company and all role-players therein, we have made the incredibly difficult decision to place the company under liquidation. As you know, the company made its best efforts to recover, by going under business rescue, however, this was to no avail and the process has unfortunately, now terminated,” reads Go-Bet’s statement.
According to Abeedah Adams, the provincial secretary of the General Industrial Workers Union of South Africa (GIWUSA), the liquidator has been appointed and the union is fighting for workers’ interests, starting by having workers classified as preferred creditors.
“There was UIF/TERS money that was paid to the company for the workers and if the workers are not considered [preferred] creditors then that money would go to other people even though it was meant for the workers,” said Adams.
Adams said that there is no retrenchment package or provident fund money for the workers. “We have made an application to the High Court so that our members can be seen as preferred creditors but that process takes long and there are no guarantees that the workers will get all the money that is due to them,” said Adams.
Babalwa Maqhekeni who worked for Go-Bet for three years told Elitsha that she was notified by her colleagues who were on duty on the 30th of September that their jobs were terminated. “I got a call from my colleagues saying that they received an email instructing them to shut down everything, and disconnect and stop taking bets, we are closing down our site,” said Maqhekeni.
The closure of the company and the speed at which it happened was a shock to the workers. “What shocked us is the news that the company should close just like that. We didn’t get any information that something like this was going to happen or that there was going to be this kind of problem. We did hear that the company was undergoing financial distress, but they said they would have a meeting with company heads and staff representatives and then after that meeting, they would get back to us and let us know what is going on. They promised us they will try see to it that the problems the company is facing are fixed. We never heard anything from them again. Next thing we know, they said the company must close,” Maqhekeni said.
Another worker, Bongeka Mthetho who was the branch manager in Elsies River, said that she feels betrayed as they were working hard for the company. “This makes me feel very angry because I arrived at Go-Bet when it was still a small business, you see? They only had five branches when I arrived. The company grew so much, especially my branch where I was working. It grew so much that it became the branch that was making the most money out of all them in the Western Cape. So, I’m very angry because I thought as employees that we were loyal enough to them, they’d tell us what is going on,” she said.
Maqhekeni said that she is not coping well with the situation and is now depressed. “It has affected me a lot, it’s hard. I’m under too much stress and struggle. Even with rent, we don’t know what we’ll do… what I will do now. I feel abused because of the way things happened. So now, I don’t know what’s going to happen to me. The way the company treated us is unacceptable, it’s extremely abusive,” she said.