Durban - Loyal municipal employees who lost out on long-service benefits when the apartheid-era municipalities merged to form the giant eThekwini Metro in 2007 will finally be paid some of their benefits when a proposal by the city is accepted by both unions.
What this means is 15 773 employees will be paid more than R170 million between them.
And those who had received more than R200m in benefits they did not qualify for would not have to repay anything.
Already the Independent Municipal and Allied Trade Union (Imatu) has given its thumbs-up and the agreement now hinges on the approval of the SA Municipal Workers Union (Samwu).
On Tuesday Imatu gave feedback to its members on the proposal, saying that Durban’s Conditions of Service accounting nightmare was almost resolved.
The eThekwini city manager, S’bu Sithole, said in the proposal document that after much discussion over several months, the city had decided it would not pursue the reversal of pay parity that took effect on April 1, 2007. This related to levelling the pay structures between the small municipalities that were merged into the metro.
Sithole said payments would be made on May 23.
The approaching agreement beween eThekwini and the unions has averted a labour catastrophe that could have brought Durban’s administration to its knees.
It was caused when the new metro implemented conditions of service that were not agreed on with Samwu and Imatu following the 2007 merger.
About 46 local authorities in Durban were restructured in a process affecting about 16 000 employees before a final phase of local government restructuring led to the formation of eThekwini.
Before the new dispensation was implemented, employees were paid on five different pay structures and 31 different conditions of service.
An eThekwini spokeswoman, Tozi Mthethwa, said an amended proposal to settle the dispute was presented to the unions by the municipal management last week.
“The parties are busy with constructive engagement and significant progress has been made to resolve the matter,” she said.
Imatu president Stanley Khoza said the fight to have the matter addressed had been “a long and painful journey” and he was happy it was in its final stages.
“Our members have accepted the proposal and are happy there is now a date on when payments will be made,” he said.
Khoza made it clear that employees needed to understand it was not everyone who would be paid. Also, individuals would receive different amounts
“We never gave up because we wanted to see this rectified,” he said.
Samwu regional secretary Jaycee Ncanana said they were still sorting out logistics so that they could meet members to debate the proposal.
In all 6 321 employees would be paid long-service allowances, 7 490 would be paid out for long-service leave and 1 962 were due for backpay for the omnibus allowance that included overtime and nightshift allowances. However, they would only be paid for three years back-dated from April 30 – which is stipulated in the Prescription Act.
The battle between the municipality and its staff saw the matter go to the Supreme Court of Appeal in September, which declared eThekwini’s new divisional conditions of service null and void.
This meant the municipality had to revert to the conditions of service that were in place before 2007.
After the court ruling, a task team consisting of municipal management and the two unions was set up to identify and quantify the implications of the judgment.
Sithole said that all long service milestones achieved up until April 30 would be recognised.
Negotiations on the new conditions of service would begin urgently and a new collective agreement would be finalised by June 30, with an effective date of July 1.