Johannesburg Library employees are up in arms against the City of Johannesburg over an alleged breach in a settlement agreement. Picture: Itumeleng English

EMPLOYEES of Johannesburg Library are up in arms over what they claim is the failure by their employer to stick to the agreement reached with their union last year.

The staff members, who include librarians, assistants and general workers, have alleged the City of Johannesburg has breached a settlement agreement reached with the Independent Municipal and Allied Trade Union (Imatu). 

The council runs between 90 and 100 libraries in greater Joburg. Disgruntled workers say they have not been paid for overtime worked since operating hours were extended from 9am-1pm to 9am-5pm on July 4, 2017, by mayor Herman Mashaba. 

They are also demanding the refunding of deductions taken from their salaries when they refused to work on Saturdays because the city was not calculating their overtime rates on scales that they were happy with. Workers have sent a letter to the city in which they accuse the employer of violating parts of a settlement agreement reached on November 6, 2018, with Imatu. 

At the time of publishing, the Sunday Independent had not received a response from city manager Dr Ndivhoniswani Lukhwareni to questions sent by e-mail via spokesperson Nthatisi Modingoane. Since the breaches allegedly occurred before March 13, 2019, in terms of the settlement, the union has the right to rally its members to go on strike. Imatu Joburg regional chairperson Mark-Lee Gericke could not be reached for comment after several attempts to reach him proved futile. 

However, one staffer close to the matter, who insisted on anonymity, confirmed, “No, we are not planning a strike.” Workers also accuse the city of violations relating to six-day employees who were not remunerated with overtime pay for working extended Saturday hours beyond the 45-hour week, as stipulated by section 35(2)(a) and (b)of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act of 1997. 

They also claim money deducted from salaries in March-May 2018 was not reimbursed, the city failing to refund money docked from employee salaries during the period August 1, 2018-October 31, 2018, and November 2018. 

Salaries being docked by the city in violation of clause 5.1.9 of the November settlement, which stated: “The employer undertakes not to process any salary deductions for the period of 1 August 2018 to 31 October 2018.” 

The city is also accused of breaking its commitment to repay all money docked from employee salaries by no later than January 31, 2019, which staffers say has not happened. “Payments did not reflect on 31st January 2019 pay slips as per agreement until staff went to HR to investigate,” reads the letter. The November settlement – clause 5.1.16 – also spelt out that there will be “no victimisation” of employees employed by the city. 

But staffers said that registers had been tampered with by top management to victimise them. The city had for the past 18 months, since July 2017, refused to pay staffers for overtime work done on Saturdays when library operating hours were extended. 

Sifiso Mbambo, a librarian and Imatu shop steward, said: “They started with a pilot project for one month in June 2017. During the pilot project, they paid us for working on Saturday, the overtime scale. During implementation, they did not pay for Saturday work.” City of Johannesburg MMC for Community Development Department Nonhlanhla Sifumba, confirmed this, “The pilot was in June 2017, and the implementation started in July 2017.” 

From August 2017, library employees stayed away from work, demanding to be paid on an overtime pay scale on Saturdays. Consequently, the city’s human resources division began to dock the salaries of staffers in September-October 2017 who stayed away from work on Saturdays. Workers claim amounts ranging between R700 and up to R17 000 were deducted from their salaries between September 2017 and December 2018. 

The deductions, which were regarded as “unlawful” by unions and employees, prompted the labour unions to apply for a certificate to strike, which the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration granted. However, a strike and shut-down of public libraries in Johannesburg was averted when a settlement was entered into on November 6, 2018, between Imatu and the city. 

Workers have demanded the reimbursement “in full (tax free)” of all salaries docked, that JCL employees who worked extended hours in November 2018 to be paid. They also demanded that overtime to be remunerated “from 8am-5pm on Saturdays” instead of the current regime of overtime pay from 1pm-5pm.