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Joburg mayor dismisses ‘threats’ as legal action looms over 130 employees contract saga

The City of Joburg says it will not be threatened following its decision to terminate the permanent contracts of 130 employees.

The metropolitan municipality issued a directive on Wednesday, which signalled the city’s intention to reverse the permanent employment of the 130 employees.

This is after the conversion of the fixed-term contracts to permanent were found to have been irregular and illegal.

“You are hereby notified that the municipal council, through the attached resolution which rescinded the decisions of the mayoral committee to convert fixed term contract to permanent, has officially reversed what it believed was an irregular and improper action of conversion which tainted lawful fixed term contracts of staff in political offices and office of chief operations officer,” reads the directive.

According to Joburg mayor Mpho Phalatse, the decision was made after the South African Municipal Workers Union (Samwu) and lawyers acting on behalf of the employees did make any representations to challenge the decision by the city.

“As of 13:00, Wednesday, no legal challenge has been brought against the administration, the council, or the executive of Johannesburg.

“Moreover, affected employees attached to political offices were requested to make representations, to which Samwu has gone on record to say that they will not do so; and the employees’ attorneys of record have indicated that they will not make any representations on 9 March 2022, as stipulated by the city,” Phalatse said in a statement.

‘Unfair, deceptive’

But the employees hold a different view on the matter, saying they were “dismayed” by the city’s assertion that they missed the deadline to make representations.

“According to our records, both the union and our legal representative requested an extension for Wednesday and Friday respectively, requests of which were acceded to.

“We are dismayed by the mayor’s utterances that both the union and our lawyers refused to respond to the city timeously. On the contrary, Samwu made and filed formal representation to the city as promised,” they said in a statement.

The employees said Phalatse’s statement is “a shameless and groundless attempt to continue misleading the public about her wicked aspirations to fire 130 qualified and skilled employees”.

“Her claims are unfair, deceptive and not in the spirit of a quest to find a consultative and amicable solution to avoid a potential job bloodbath in the city.”

The employees also said they were surprised the city has already sent out a directive to initiate the process of contract termination.

“[This all happens] while they portray us as rebellious and not willing to corporate in the public domain.”

They further said: “We want to place it on record that the city is merely initiating this process to deal with issues of consultation to satisfy the prescript of ‘audi alter am partem‘.

“Given the legality and the lawfulness of the matter, we had to consult extensively with our lawyers before making our representations.

“We reiterate that at no point have we refused to engage or corporate with the administration. However, we are opposed to the underhand tactics and intimidating tactics which seek to submit us to the narrow political aspirations of the multi-party government.

“We see the city’s conduct as part of a well-orchestrated ticking box exercise in a quest to illegally terminate our permanent employment.”

‘Threats of violence’

Meanwhile, Phalatse said “threats of violence and intimidation” from unions would not reverse the city’s decision.

“Threats of violence and intimidation have been made, announcing a plan of action that includes rendering the city ungovernable and preventing me from speaking in council.

“These threats will not deter the multi-party government, nor will they prevent us from building a city that has been broken down for so many years,” she said.

Samwu has since indicated that the union will challenge the city’s decision to terminate the contracts, Jacaranda FM reported.

“As Samwu in Johannesburg we have tabled before you that the processes that are going to unfold now, we are going to use all the avenues before us, the courts of law, our bargaining council.

“Even if it means we are going to the streets, as we’ve alluded earlier, because there is no way that when the DA [Democratic Alliance] takes over, we do not come across challenges,” Samwu deputy regional secretary Thobani Nkosi said during a media briefing this week.

Samwu regional chairperson Esther Matatyana argued that the contracts were illegal, describing the city’s move as unlawful.

Matatyana said it was public knowledge that the contracts of employment of these employees were converted in March 2021, following the advertisements of the vacancies and the rigorous interview processes.

“It is therefore unfortunate that the city has decided that these employees are political appointees and as such decided to terminate their contracts of employment without following any due process let alone terminate the contracts on the basis of misconduct, insubordination or dereliction of duty.”

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