City of Joburg wins court battle against workers over contract conversions

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DA mayor for Johannesburg, Mpho Phalatse.
DA mayor for Johannesburg, Mpho Phalatse.
Lucky Morajane
  • The City of Joburg and a group of its former staffers have been locked in legal wrangling over the conversion of employment contracts. 
  • The so-called COJ130 workers, however, lost their last court bid to halt the end of their employment contracts.
  • The staffers' contracts ended on 30 April. 

The City of Johannesburg has won another case in its battle with a group of workers over the "legality" of their employment contract conversion. 

On Tuesday, the Labour Court ruled against the group of workers, who were represented by the South African Municipal Workers Union (Samwu). 

Judge Andre van Niekerk struck the application off the roll. 

He said the Labour Court had no jurisdiction to provide the workers the relief requested. 

The 130 Joburg staffers served their last day as employees of the City last week Friday.  Their contracts officially ended on 30 April. 

READ | Labour Court rules in favour of workers in fight with City of Joburg over contract dispute

The group had initially been hired as contract workers, employed as support staff of political appointees. 

The ANC, in February 2021, months before losing power in the City, converted the contracts to permanent. The party passed a motion through the mayoral committee. 

The DA-led coalition government said this process was illegal and, in February 2022, a motion reversed the contract conversions.

A motion was also passed, which instructed the City manager to begin the process of advertising the vacancies. It had to be filled by 1 May. 

The workers fought to keep their jobs, with the latest battle taking place at the Labour Court last week Thursday. 

Samwu asked the court to consider the unlawfulness of the City in reversing the conversions. It pleaded for an order that the previous ANC resolution to convert the contracts was legal. 

Van Niekerk said the union had failed to prove, in terms of the Labour Relations Act (LRA), on what basis the court could rule on unlawfulness. He said the workers were seeking relief on matters "that are not regulated in the LRA or any legislation that confers jurisdiction of this court". 

He continued: 

The applicants' pleadings must disclose a cause of action that brings their claims within the ambit of the court's jurisdiction. Whichever way one looks at the applicant's pleaded cause of action, this court has no jurisdiction to enquire into the lawfulness of the termination of the employees' contracts of employment.

"Even less does it have validity to pronounce on the validity of a resolution adopted by a municipal council. The application thus stands struck off the roll," Van Niekerk said. 

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