City likely to pay back millions to employees

2013-10-14 00:00

THE early findings of a task team, appointed after a Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) ruling that the eThekwini Municipality honour millions of rands in back payments owed to employees, does not paint a pretty picture for the city and its ratepayers.

Last month, the SCA dismissed an appeal brought by the city against an earlier judgment handed down by the Labour Appeal Court. This means that the city will now have to pay over 20 000 employees millions of rands in staff benefits, dating back six years.

The 16-member team, consisting of eight representatives from unions Samwu and Imatu, and eight senior managers from the city, has been set up to quantify the financial implications for the city of Durban.

Earlier this month city manager Sbu Sithole said it was the 5 800 city employees who owed money to the municipality.

A source close to the investigation said despite Sithole’s claims, it is likely that the council would end up paying millions of rands to its employees. “The data collected for now indicates that the municipality owes people. But at the moment we are busy counting, the process is not complete. It has serious implication to both parties. Its not a simple issue and there are far-reaching repercussions.”

At the heart of the dispute is the implementation of divisional conditions of service by the eThekwini Municipality in 2007.

The city introduced the agreement when employees, who fell under five pay structures relating to their former operational entities — and all of whom had different conditions of service and wage packages — were unified under the newly created municipality.

Imatu president Stanley Khoza, a member of the task team, said they were busy collecting data to identify all affected workers. “At the moment we have not yet quantified figures that need to be paid back to the workers.

“During the implementation of the agreement 16 000 people were employed and over 5 000 were employed after using questionable conditions. A large number of employees were disadvantaged by these conditions of service,” he said.

Khoza said many employees lost the benefits they previously had, prior to the amalgamation. “Some were not even paid for their long service,” he added.

He dismissed Sithole’s suggestion that the city was owed by the employees. “There is no ways that employees would have to pay back to the employer who ignored court rulings that declared the divisional conditions of service to be null and void,” he said.

On Friday, the team met at the city’s electricity training centre to speed up the process. “We are not aware how much employees will get back. It is not advisable for people to create unnecessary debt hoping to get a big pay-out from the employer,”Khoza said.

Municipal spokesperson Thabo Mofokeng said the process was moving at a good pace, but it was too early to announce a decision.

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