Medical aid benefits reprieve for thousands of Post Office workers
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Pretoria - Thousands of SA Post Office workers received a reprieve after the employer and its medical aid scheme Medipos reached an agreement that will ensure that their benefits continue to be paid, for now.
Labour union Solidarity approached the Labour Court for an urgent order against the Post Office for failing to pay contributions amounting to about R600 million to employees’ medical aid funds.
They wanted the cash-strapped state entity to immediately pay the outstanding medical contributions.
Solidarity, the Post Office and Medipos managed to reach a settlement in terms of which the employer must make certain minimum monthly payments to the medical aid.
In exchange for the minimum payments, Medipos has undertaken to sustain the employees’ medical cover, provided that the Council for Medical Schemes approves the settlement agreement. The settlement was ratified by the Labour Court as a court order.
Thousands of postal workers faced the possibility of losing their medical aid benefits from tomorrow due to the fact that their premiums were in arrears.
The Post Office failed for months to pay the full member contributions to the fund on behalf of its employees, while the deductions still appeared on their payslips.
The agreement between the parties further stipulates that if the medical schemes’ watchdog does not grant its permission for the implementation of the agreement, the court application would again be placed on the labour court roll at the end of November.
Meanwhile, no medical claims from any SA Post Office employees who are Medipos members will be refused as of October 1.
“It is outrageous that Solidarity had to revert to court to force the Post Office to meet its obligations. Innocent employees suffer as a result of the mismanagement and corruption … Such malpractices can no longer be tolerated,” said Anton van der Bijl, Solidarity’s head of legal matters. He added that the union would keep a close eye on the situation.
“We are pleased that our members will be able to continue to enjoy the benefits of their medical aid without interruption. Many employees suffer from medical conditions or have to undergo surgery,” he said.
Anna Ersamus, a member of Solidarity, said in court papers that in terms of the more than 16 000 postal workers’ conditions of employment, they must belong to one of the company’s medical aid schemes.
Erasmus said that while the Post Office was deducting a third of the medical aid costs from the salaries of its workers, it had failed for several months to pay this, together with its contribution, over to the medical aids.
Solidarity last year issued several letters to the Post Office, to address the issue. While the Post Office denied that it had deducted the medical aid contributions from employees’ salaries, the entity admitted that Covid-19 had brought it “to its knees”.
In a letter to Solidarity earlier, it maintained that it would adhere to its constitutional obligations towards its workers.