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Row over expelled union members

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Mdhluli urged the municipality to release the outstanding report into the rape of an employee at the Judy Scott Library

OFFICIALS: Samwu provincial organiser, Abel Finger (left) and the unions provincial secretary, Benjamin Mdhluli. Picture: Sandi Kwon Hoo

THE SA Municipal Workers’ Union (Samwu) intends taking the Sol Plaatje Municipality to court to prevent expelled union members from holding clandestine meetings at the council offices.

The union has also reported the appointment of four expelled Samwu members at Sol Plaatje Municipality to the Public Protector, where it indicated that the posts did not exist on the organogram and were not budgeted for.

Samwu will hold elections in the upcoming week to replace the former local chairperson, Jabu Cele, who, along with Abraham Lekwene, Tom Williams and Andrew Khoza, was expelled in March 2017, with effect from October 2016.

Samwu provincial secretary Benjamin Mdhluli said yesterday that these expelled members, as well as their wives, were employed at the municipality while they were apparently not qualified and did not possess the necessary expertise.

“While Samwu office bearers and officials were, up until April 9, prohibited from holding any meetings at the municipality, these expelled members are, up until today, still being allowed to hold union meetings on behalf of Samwu and issue letters with our emblem. The failure of the municipality to implement the settlement agreement concluded with Samwu and not to recognise the expelled members as shop stewards, is tantamount to contempt of court,” said Mdhluli.

He claimed that these expelled members had received undue benefits, promotions and notch increases in exchange for “disrupting” the union.

“One expelled member was promoted four notches from a messenger to an auxiliary clerk, while he cannot read or write. The other one was appointed as an electrician and received eight notch increases. He does not fulfil the requirements of the post while the position was never advertised.”

Mdhluli added that the union was never involved in the shortlisting of candidates for these posts.

“We would have advised the municipality that these candidates do not qualify.”

He added that the cash-strapped municipality could ill afford the R400 000 that was paid every month to a private law firm to deal with labour disputes.

“From 2016 to date, an amount of R4 million was paid to this law firm while the municipality has permanently employed a full complement of labour and legal advisers.”

Mdhluli also claimed that cases of nepotism were not being addressed, where a director had apparently employed her son as a senior manager, although no one had seen him physically set foot in the office.

“He is a ghost worker earning a big salary. Former employees are being hired as consultants to train new incumbents how to do their work.”

He also branded the municipal manager a “cheque collector” and said that he was not performing his duties in preventing mismanagement at the municipality.

“The mayor is acting like King Pharaoh, doing whatever he pleases. The rot at the municipality runs deep.”

The union also queried why the municipality needed to appoint three auditing firms, consultants, performance management advisers, engineering consultants, and an accountant to calculate director’s packages, which came at a high cost to ratepayers.

Mdhluli urged the municipality to release the outstanding report into the rape of an employee at the Judy Scott Library.

Spokesperson for Sol Plaatje Municipality, Sello Matsie, explained that private lawyers were appointed as the institution had to deal with multiple litigation matters that often involved complex legal issues ranging from the Homevale Waste Water Treatment Plant matter, tender disputes and evictions.

“Matters are taken on review while there are matters that are heard in the Labour Court in Johannesburg. We make use of private legal firms as they are well versed in matters of this sort, while they also act as instructing attorneys.”

Matsie stated that recruitment and selection policies were followed.

“Some of the employees referred to were working at the municipality a long time ago. All the positions exist on the organogram and are budgeted for.

“Up until today, we have not received any correspondence regarding their unsuitability. There are no ghost workers employed at the municipality.

“We dismiss their (the union’s) allegations as being malicious and untrue. We advise union members to resolve their internal issues amicably. We know the people who are behind those who are peddling lies.”

Matsie urged anyone with a grievance to lodge a formal complaint. “All complaints will be adequately dealt with.”