Overtime outrage grows

2009-11-18 00:00

WHILE residents in the city are struggling under the burden of increased rates and electricity bills, “a bunch of amateurs in the city hall are plundering our money every month by way of ridiculous overtime claims.”

So says the Msunduzi Rates Forum, which has joined the clamour calling for an inquiry into how the situation was allowed to get so out of hand.

The forum believes there should be a forensic investigation into the overtime pay issue. President Babs Sithapersad said the non-collection of refuse and the reasons advanced are unacceptable.

“Security guards, refuse collectors and ordinary clerks in the city hall are now fat cats and on the gravy train,” he said.

Sithapersad said the mayor and the full council can call for such an investigation into the administration of the city. He warned them always to remember that they are accountable to ratepayers.

The Witness has been inundated with calls expressing shock at the overtime claims at the Msunduzi Municipality.

By yesterday there seemed to be no evidence that the municipality has made any attempt to get more refuse trucks on the road. Many Cleland residents, whose rubbish gets picked up on Mondays, still had no collection by late last night.

Meanwhile, a former council employee told The Witness that the overtime abuse started during the time of the previous council, prior to 2006.

He alleged that Mayor Zanele Hlatshwayo was a member of the human resources (HR) committee when a decision was taken for middle managers to be paid overtime.

The mayor could not be contacted as she was travelling back from a trip to Korea.

Democratic Alliance councillor Peter Green, a long-standing member of the HR committee, recalls the decision being taken.

He said he protested at the time, but was outnumbered by members who said that employees who work overtime are entitled to be paid for it, irrespective of their positions.

The ex-employee said that according to the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA), it is illegal for employees earning more than R149 736 per year to be paid overtime. He added that the private sector is very strict about this, but it seems there is no concern in the council, perhaps because it is public money. He claims an investigation will show that a number of employees earning much more than the cut-off mark are collecting overtime.

The BCEA states that not all employees have to be paid for overtime even if they are required to and do work overtime. The following categories of are not obliged to receive overtime:

• Senior managerial employees

• Sales staff who travel to the premises of customers and who regulate their own hours of work

• Employees who work less than 24 hours a month

• Employees who earn more than R149 736 per year (the minister can change the sum from time to time)

However, a lawyer warns that if you have agreed in your employment contract to pay overtime, you are bound by your agreement, despite the Act.

Green sent The Witness a copy of open letter he sent to municipal manager Rob Haswell. The letter reminds Haswell that he undertook to curb overtime and assured council that managers will be answerable for overtime of staff in their departments.

Haswell “will have to verify the allegations and bring the deputy municipal managers, process managers and any other managers responsible for authorising this irregular overtime to book”, he added.

“A report on the matter must be given at the next council meeting on November 25. A full explanation must be given to council, and the ratepayers, about who authorised the overtime work in contravention of the Basic Conditions of Service Act, the Labour Act, and council’s resolution that overtime must be curbed,” Green said.





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