Retrenchment worries grow

2010-09-17 00:00

WILL there or won’t there be job cuts at the Msunduzi Municipality?

No! say the turnaround team,

Yes! say staff, who believe that while the team are reluctant to use the word retrenchment, there is definitely a move to rationalise jobs within the institution.

Over the past weeks The Witness has been inundated with calls about job losses at city hall. A figure doing the rounds within the municipality is that 600 staffers will have to go.

Administrator Johann Mettler is adamant that no instruction regarding retrenchments has been put forward by the turnaround team. He said it was premature for the team to even consider retrenchment when they have not finalised the new organisational structure.

This explanation did not settle fears among employees who heard of meetings being held with library staff and with the 14 human resources managers from the different units. The rumour doing the rounds at city hall was that there would be a process of “constructive retrenchments.”

Staffers understood this to mean that people who are identified as redundant in a particular unit will go into a pool. If it is possible, a place will be found for them elsewhere in the organisation and they will be redeployed.

The concern among staffers who went through a similar exercise during a placement process in 2005 to bring about equity within the organisation, is what will happen to those that cannot be placed. In the previous exercise people who were moved out of their positions were placed in a pool and some sat for up to two years doing nothing while waiting to be placed. One staffer was left in the pool for five years with no placement, all the while drawing a salary.

Mettler denied that the term “constructive retrenchment” was used, saying it is an unknown concept.

He added that there is no official programme in operation to hold meetings with the different units. Units are visited on request. The administrator said that Abe du Plessis from the provincial intervention team met with the library staff on September 13 on request by the library manager. Du Plessis briefed them on the restructuring process and answered questions. Other issues such as time and attendance, performance management and standards of conduct were discussed.

A similar meeting was held with the HR management staff. “The HR managers were not ‘called in’ and ‘told all can’t stay and some will have to go’. The proposed structure for HR makes provision for an executive and three managers reporting to the executive. All the HR staff was informed of this proposal at a meeting [on September 8],” said Mettler.

On the pool system, he added that after the finalisation of the structures and a job evaluation of all the posts on the structure, all employees will be placed (symbolically) in a “pool.” They will be allocated from the pool to the new structure based on the required competencies for each post. “If any staff remains in the pool, extreme care and diligence will be used to ensure effective utilisation of the human resources in excess to avoid mistakes of the past. We believe that with natural attrition vacancies will arise to effectively place any staff in excess, and that Msunduzi will be able to avoid unnecessary retrenchments,” said Mettler.

But this is cold comfort for staff, who are aware that both Mettler and Mayor Mike Tarr have publicly stated that the bloated staff structure at the municipality is unsustainable. Some believe that what will help the situation is speedier action on investigations against suspended officials and those still employed and currently being probed, all of whom are drawing salaries.

Mettler said that the investigations are ongoing and that charges will be laid in due course.




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