What are you willing to sacrifice to be “profitable”?

This morning in the traffic on the way to work a very overloaded bakkie snailed past myself and a colleague. When I say overloaded, I’m not talking six people – I’m talking about fifteen men crammed in, sitting round the edges and hanging out of the back of the vehicle. 

We’ve all seen these, it’s not an uncommon sight in our nation. The interesting thing was that this time it was a branded vehicle. Gocreateprojects to be specific.

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There is a reason it is illegal to stuff people into open vehicles on the road. It endangers their lives as well as the lives of other motorists. As my colleague pointed out, if the driver had needed to brake, even gently, there would have been bodies sprawling all over the road, screeching breaks and a high chance of a loss of life. So I decided to call them.

Surely, the business owner would be concerned to learn that their branded vehicle was being used in this way? Surely, if it were their employees aboard, they would want them to be transported safely wherever they were going?

I got through to Mrs Trevor Hill, the owner’s wife, and the conversation that followed left me fuming. I politely let her know what I’d seen and why I was concerned and she proceeded to explain that they were aware of the situation and that actually, they were doing the guys a favour.

She said their employees commute from the townships and arrive at Claremont station, so instead of them spending cash on taxi fares or having to walk the distance to work – the Gocreateprojects office is in Bishop’s Court – they send the bakkie down.

She said it was their way of helping the staff out, that it saved them cash and a long walk and that it was a short distance. She acknowledged it wasn’t ideal but seemed to feel it was a kindness on their part. 

I asked whether it would not be better to provide them with the transport money to get safely to the office or to send the vehicle down a couple of times, which was when the conversation got a bit heated. She asked me if I “was living in the real world” and if I knew how hard it was to be profitable. 

She said that one day when I run a business I’ll realise everyone has to make sacrifices to keep a business running. I asked her if she felt it was worth sacrificing their lives and our conversation ended there.

It makes me angry that this company that builds houses for the fortunate in Clifton, Camps Bay and Fresnaye do not consider it important to find a safe, workable solution for transporting their staff. Even if the guys appreciate it and prefer it to walking, it is a massive indictment. I bet the owners of the business, and the people they build houses for, would not want to put their own lives in danger on this regular basis. Why let their staff do it, and then sugar it up and make it sound like they’re doing them a favour?

On the Gocreateprojects website they list their level three contribution BEE status as well as their membership in the MBA (Master Builder’s Association) which states:

The MBA’s primary objective is to ensure that the reputation of members in this area remains high and that investment in building is therefore attracted to it. It does this by insisting that Members work to the highest possible standards, aesthetically, technically and ethically – in short, that they conduct their business in a thoroughly professional manner at all times.

I don’t feel the transport “solution” I witnessed this morning, or the profit-at-all-costs business philosophy defensively espoused in the ensuing phone conversation, is either ethical or professional.

Gocreatprojects – stop kidding yourselves and find a better and safer way to transport your staff. If this tiny act (i.e. keeping your staff alive) will render you “unprofitable” for goodness sake, close up shop.

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