Dismissed Ekurhuleni metro workers turn to court to be reinstated

By Zelda Venter Time of article published Feb 24, 2021

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Pretoria - Workers from the Ekurhuleni Metro Municipality who were twice employed and dismissed have asked the Labour Appeal Court for assistance.

The group, represented by Lawyers for Human Rights, were semi-skilled workers who formed part of the Lungile Mtshali Development Plan Project.

The “job creation programme” promised them practical and theoretical training as well as the formation of co-operatives.

This never happened, Jessica Lawrence, an attorney with Lawyers for Human Rights said.

“Instead, they worked for the municipality, among other things cleaning streets and drains, but without the benefits of employment.”

In terms of the project, they were due to receive part theoretical training to improve their skills, as well as part practical training.

The group claimed none of this ever happened. Instead, they said, they were used as cheap labour and worked as ordinary municipal workers.

Lawrence said that while working for the municipality, as the workers ended up doing, they wanted to be recognised as permanent employees because the work they did was not temporary in nature.

She said there was also no justifiable reason for fixing the term of their contracts.

As a result, they referred their plight to the South African Local Government Bargaining Council to be declared permanent employees of the municipality in terms of the Labour Relations Act. They were dismissed shortly after this.

Following the applicants’ dismissal, the municipality engaged a company called Hlaniki Investment Holdings to recruit, provide and manage the employees to do the same work for the municipality that they had done previously.

The Gauteng Enterprise Propeller was also engaged by the municipality to co-ordinate a “job creation programme”, in which the employees were supposed to participate in.

In December 2015, the workers signed a further contract of employment with Hlaniki and the Gauteng Enterprise Propeller.

In terms of this contract, they continued performing the same work for the municipality but without the benefits promised in terms of the “job creation programme”.

The workers wanted to be recognised as permanent employees of the municipality but instead were later dismissed.

Lawrence said that as a result they referred a second case to the bargaining council – to be declared permanent employees of the municipality.

In 2018 the workers approached the Labour Court for an order declaring that they were employees of the municipality in terms of both contracts and seeking relief for both unfair dismissals.

The Labour Court found in favour of the workers in terms of the first dismissal only, and ordered the municipality to pay compensation equal to 12 months’ remuneration to each of the workers.

However, last year the municipality filed an application to appeal against the judgment of the Labour Court.

In response, the workers filed an application to cross-appeal the judgment. Lawrence said the workers want the Labour Appeal Court to declare that they were permanent employees of the municipality in terms of the two contracts and order their reinstatement effective from July 1, 2015.

They also want back-pay up until the date of reinstatement.

“Job creation programmes often lead to the exploitation of workers, whether intentionally or due to negligence in the management thereof, instead of actually alleviating poverty and creating jobs.

“In cases like this, municipalities avoid their obligations as employers, resulting in the violation of workers’ rights”, said Lawrence.

The application yesterday was postponed to a date still to be determined, as the judges required further documentation to be submitted to them,” she added.

Pretoria News

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