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Thousands of eThekwini Municipality employees, who are liable to pay back substantial amounts to the city, following the conditions of service court ruling, could be let off the hook.
But those officials who are owed money by the city will be paid back.
On Tuesday city manager S’bu Sithole said expecting employees to pay money back to the municipality as a result of the judgment was impractical.
Last month the Supreme Court of Appeal found that the municipality was applying conditions of service that had expired. This meant an earlier Labour Court ruling, nullifying the conditions of service, now stood.
Sithole said quantifying who was owed money was being finalised and the number of employees who owed the municipality had dropped from the initial figure of 5 800. This was because some had resigned and others were dead.
“We have to look at things such as pension contributions, allowances, leave and how those employees were remunerated. In many instances we have to do manual counts and those figures have to be audited. The task team is looking at all these issues and other aspects have to be approved by the bargaining council,” he said.
Quantifying who owed money and who had to be repaid was tedious, he said.
“How practical will it be to claim money from employees? You can’t do that unless you want instability. Such decisions will emerge once we know who owes what and then we will decide how we move forward,” he said.
Sithole said that, as an accounting officer, he was aware that city employees were struggling to make ends meet.
“It’s fair to pay those we owe, as an employer, because there is little scope in avoiding such a liability. We also need to look at what caused the delay, which will go a long way in deciding on the repayment,” he said.
South African Municipal Workers Union regional chairman Madala Nhleko, who is a member of the task team, agreed with Sithole.
Nhleko also said that when the former councils were merged there were many inequities in the conditions of service of municipal staff.
He said the lowest category of worker, in councils such as the Outer West, earned far less for doing the same work as an employee who worked in the Central Councils.
“Expecting those workers to pay back money will effectively mean going back to unfair conditions of service which is what the new conditions were seeking to address,” he said.