KZN's Cooperative Governance MEC Nomusa Dube
The Inkosi Langalibalele Municipality in Estcourt was expected to lay off almost half its employees as it was unable to pay salaries.

The Independent Municipal and Allied Trade Union (Imatu) and the SA Municipal Workers Union (Samwu) picketed outside the offices this week, opposing the retrenchments.

Cathi Botes, Imatu regional manager, said a task team comprising both unions and management was set up to look at various alternatives to prevent job losses. “We put forward concessions, including reducing outsourced services, and we said a feasibility study must be done to see how internal staff can be utilised to provide services which were outsourced,”said Botes.

The municipality has 598 employees and was expected to reduce the number to 350 across all categories.

Facilitation by the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration has already started.

Joe Ncanana, Samwu provincial secretary, said it would ensure none of the employees lost their job, and said a task team was set to meet on April 9.

“When the municipality was amalgamated, the Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) said no employees would lose jobs, and we are here to ensure it does not happen,” said Ncanana. The municipality was formed in August 2016 after the amalgamation of the Imbabazane and Umtshezi municipalities. It was placed under administration in 2017 by Cogta MEC Nomusa Dube-Ncube due to bankruptcy.

In a letter of notice sent to the staff last year by the former administrator, Thandolwethu Manda, the municipality said it was operating on deficit salaries costing about R15million, contracted services at R2.3m and fuel and oil at R400000 and there was a need to reduce costs.

Salary disparities from the merger caused the high bill, as the municipality increased the salaries of those who were paid less than their colleagues for doing the same functions.

Mayor Jabulile Mbhele confirmed salary disparities led to the huge expenditure but said the financial status of the municipality was stable.

“The council and management do not wish for anyone to lose their jobs.

“We are looking at various options on how costs can be reduced which includes early retirement and reducing the cost of security,” said Mbhele.

Cogta spokesperson Lennox Mabaso would not confirm retrenchments but said cost-cutting measures focused on outsourced services.

“There were interventions in place looking at how we could rescue the municipality, on the brink of sinking based on poor decisions taken. The municipality was facing a number of teething problems and part of the recovery plan was to get rid frivolous expenditure such as catering. We want the municipal budget to focus on service delivery.”

Sunday Tribune