Officers take Parliament to court

2017-01-08 07:00

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Having moved quickly to recruit police into the ranks of the parliamentary protection services, Parliament now has to deal with the consequences as 69 overlooked protection officers have taken the national legislature to the labour court for unfair discrimination.

Parliament speedily recruited officers from the SA Police Service (SAPS) in July 2015 to become part of its protection services in a bid to enforce a new rule which provided for disruptive MPs to be forcefully removed from the House.

The hiring of the police officers without parliamentary experience, at better terms and conditions, led to tensions.

City Press revealed in May last year that Parliament reshuffled its staffing structure to create new positions to accommodate the former police officers at a better annual pay of up to R150 000 more than the existing team of parliamentary protection service officials.

The so-called bouncers were hired as “chamber support officers” – a new job title which separated them from existing protection officers and in effect split the parliamentary protection service.

Now, 69 protection service officers have approached the labour court seeking an order which would force Parliament to remunerate them and provide them with the same terms and conditions of employment as the bouncers.

This, they want done retrospectively to the date of the bouncers’ appointments.

Alternatively they are seeking an order that they be paid the difference in remuneration for the same period that the newly appointed chamber support officers were paid a higher remuneration package.

The officers also want compensation “for having been discriminated against”.

In court papers, they state that they have been employed in the unit for a period ranging from five to 25 years on salary scale B1 (entry level of R263 824 to maximum of R315 908 per annum) and B2 (entry level of R304 427 to maximum of R367 493 per annum).

Some of the bouncers were appointed on C1 (with entry salary of R416 091) and others on C2 (with entry salary of R525 027) “for being required to perform only a minor part of the job responsibilities of protection officers as per the job description”.

The protection officers state in the court papers that they were informed in August 2015 that, due to a resolution that passed in the National Assembly, it was decided that the capacity of protection service would be enhanced to assist in the chambers.

“They were further advised that, to expedite the process, it was decided with parliamentary protection services management that the establishment of the ‘new unit’ will be done in two phases – with one phase recruiting from the SA police services because the existing parliamentary officers did not have the necessary capabilities.

"The second phase would be open to existing parliamentary protection staff only.

“At no stage was it made known what the ‘necessary capabilities’ were and no formal HR processes were followed in appointing the new chamber support officers…”

The applicants dispute that there was a need to source protection officers from the SAPS on the basis of the so-called necessary capabilities.

In court papers, the protection officers reveal that the appointments of the bouncers created an atmosphere of “complete unhappiness” within protection services, especially given that the new officers were earning higher salaries for doing one part of the position of protection officers and working fewer hours.

The court papers also reveal that when Parliament advertised for the second phase of protection officers, the minimum requirements were stated to be matric and five years’ experience in a security environment in some cases, and a matric with eight years’ experience in a security environment with supervisory experience, respectively, for some positions.

“There was no mention in the advertisements of the so-called necessary capabilities that were required in order for Parliament to source the initial intake in Phase 1 from the SAPS rather than advertising and appointing employees already employed within protection services,” reads the court statement.

The applicants claim that, since the arrival of the chamber support officers, they are purposefully excluded by their manager from certain tasks, and functions and unilateral changes have been made to their job descriptions.

By Thursday, Parliament had not yet filed responding papers. Its spokesperson, Manelisi Wolela, said the legislature would study the documents and respond accordingly.

Read more on:    parliament  |  saps  |  discrimination  |  national assembly

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