Pretoria - The SA Municipal Workers Union (Samwu) has flatly rejected a decision by the cash-strapped Tshwane to stagger the pay-outs of the 13th cheque to its employees over a three-month period.
The annual pay-outs, collectively amounting to R565 166 041, were scheduled for processing at the end of November 2023.
However, last week, municipal manager Johann Mettler informed the workers’ unions about a change of plans due to the city’s ongoing financial woes.
Regional union secretary Precious Theledi has since questioned Mettler’s decision, saying it was merely conveyed to the unions without prior consultation with the workers.
In a letter she penned to Mettler this week, she expressed concern that the recent meeting between the unions and the employer to communicate the city’s decision “did not constitute a consultation with ourselves acting on behalf of our members”.
According to her, the said meeting merely involved communication regarding “a unilateral decision” not to pay workers their annual 13th cheques.
“We were not given an opportunity to consult our members prior to this meeting, who are adversely affected by this decision, and therefore, we could not give a response to a decision taken by the municipality during the meeting,” she said.
She further said the city had not provided any documentation to prove to workers that its decision was based on the lack of sufficient funds to meet its payment obligation.
Samwu criticised the proposed staggered payments method, saying it would prejudice the employees.
Theledi said: “In the event of actual deficit funds, the municipality didn’t consider other measures such as making arrangements with creditors instead of prejudicing employees by not paying their salaries.”
The city said its decision was informed by its liquidity challenges in recent months, compounded by the ongoing crippling unlawful and unprotected strike action.
Mettler said: “The dire current financial constraints, which include a cash flow deficit, declining revenue collection and heightened operational costs due to the ongoing illegal strike, are factors that unfortunately compelled the city to reconsider the payment of the 13th cheque to its employees, which was originally scheduled for processing at the end of November 2023, as has always been the norm.”
The city, he said, did not achieve its revenue-collection target in the first three months of the new financial year, which started in July.
Instead, the city’s revenue collection rate dropped to 76.08% in August from 82.02%.
“This shortfall has significantly impacted adversely on the city’s ability to meet its financial obligations, with particular concern for payments to bulk supply creditors, such as Rand Water and Eskom,” according to the city’s statement.
Mettler justified his actions, saying they “are not willy-nilly. They are informed by Section 62 (1) (a) of the Municipal Finance Management Act.”
The act demands that the accounting officer of a municipality is responsible for managing the financial administration of the municipality.
Mettler said: “For this purpose, he/she must take all reasonable steps to ensure the effective, efficient and economical use of the municipality’s resources. Section 65 (2) (a) outlines the need to include procedures for the approval, authorisation, withdrawal, and disbursement of funds.”
The staggered payments by the city will see employees on level 1-10 receive the full 13th cheque at the end of November, those on level 11-15 will receive pay-outs at the end of December 2023, and the last group of employees on level 16-22 to be paid at the end of January 2024.