MORE than 150 municipal workers employed in the Expended Public Works Programme (EPWP) for Umvoti Local Municipality had their contracts terminated last month following an urgent council meeting held early in December. Some of the fired municipal workers have been working for the municipality for a period of over four years. According to the municipality, the EPWP is designed to uplift unskilled and unemployed individuals by giving them a chance to obtain skills and work experience. When the Greytown Gazette contacted some of the municipal employees who had lost their jobs, some claimed that the termination of their contracts was politically motivated.A worker who asked not to be named said: “The termination of our contracts was not done in a transparent and fair manner. “When I started working for the municipality I was employed as a general worker and not as an EPWP employee. EPWP workers only work for a short period of time, you cannot have EPWP workers working for over five years. We were only told that we were EPWP workers at the bargaining council last year. For all these years our contracts have shown that we were employed as general workers.“I suspect that [our contracts were terminated] because we rallied behind Godfrey Mavundla when he was elected NFP councillor. “I am the breadwinner at home and life is miserable without a job,” he said. Other employees agreed that the move was politically motivated, with another worker, who also asked to remain anonymous, saying: “This was nothing but a political vendetta carried out by officials of Umvoti Municipality.“I have been working for the municipality for five years as a general worker. I was not employed as an EPWP employee.“Some workers have consulted lawyers regarding this matter.” Speaking on the matter, eNhlalakahle Development Committee deputy chairperson Fanozi Shaik said: “We want to see the speaker [Wilson Khoza] exercising his powers in ensuring that the municipal manager [Sphindile Ngiba] reserves her decision, which will add penury to our people. “We want to assert that it is very wrong for the council to take a resolution that deprives people of their right to employment. “It is surprising to learn that councillors took such a regrettable resolution without having been mandated by their constituency because we know that nobody in his or her sober senses would ever approve the termination of employment of another person. “It was so encouraging to learn that only Councillor Mavundla told the council that he was not going to take part in a meeting that was aiming at terminating the employment of people,” Shaik said. Umvoti Municipality spokesperson Phindile Phungula confirmed the terminations, saying: “In line with providing equal employment opportunities for all residents of Umvoti, the Umvoti Local Municipality has had to let go of 152 Extended Public Works Programme employees. This decision, which was not an easy one, was guided [by the fact] that the municipality has, for some time, not been compliant with the rules and regulations of the EPWP programme, with employees having already been in the employment of the municipality beyond the mandated 12-month period.”Phungula said the decision to terminate the contracts of these employees was communicated to the employees well in advance and employees were paid up until January.“According to national ministerial policies, this programme is obliged to give as many residents as possible an employment opportunity, thereby easing financial constraints on the many destitute families in our communities.“In the last five years, a flood of young people have matriculated and could do with opportunities such as this. “Umvoti Local Municipality looks forward to empowering a new generation of EPWP employees and apologises for the inconvenience caused by the disruption of services,” Phungula added.