NEWS & ANALYSIS

De Lille should stop appealing costly arbitration outcomes - SGM

DA MP says Minister was ordered to reinstate 65 contract employees to DPWI

DA calls on De Lille to stop wasting State resources on appealing costly arbitration outcomes

26 April 2021

The DA calls on Minister Patricia De Lille to respect the decision of the General Public Service Sector Bargaining Council and reinstate 65 contract employees of the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI) in accordance with arbitration awards.

In December 2019, 85 contract workers of the Department took annual leave and on their return in January 2020, 63 were advised that their contracts had not been renewed. Some of these workers had been on renewed fixed-term contracts for as long as 15 years. Most had been there for over 2 years with a minimum of 2 renewals.

The workers took the DPWI to the Bargaining Council and last month, the Council issued an arbitration award in favour of the workers. The award stipulates that the contracts of the 63 workers be reinstated with effect from the renewal of the 22 whose contracts were renewed, “without the loss of benefits”.

This follows on two other arbitration awards made against the Department in 2020 – one in August and one in December. In both cases, the applicants are required to be reinstated from the date of the expiration of the previous contract and that their salaries and benefits be paid retrospectively. Just these two costs amount to more than R2 million.

The DA is extremely concerned that the Department is, not only wasting substantial amounts of money in defending cases that it should not have been faced with in the first place, but is also delaying implementing the provisions of the awards and is considering appealing these decisions.

The 2019 Guide on Governance Practice for Executive Authorities and Heads of Departments is extremely clear that “an arbitration award issued by a commissioner is final and binding and it may be enforced as if it were an order of the Labour Court”. Furthermore, it stipulates that if required to pay an amount to the aggrieved party, “the amount earns interest from the date of the award”. Any delays on the part of the DPWI to implement the awards could certainly be extremely costly and wasteful.

Of great concern is that some of those who have been forced to endure arbitration to have themselves reinstated, hold pivotal positions within the DPWI. One such person is a Deputy Director General responsible for the Immovable Asset Register.

The Department has consistently reflected an under-expenditure and lack of capacity in terms of its human resources and this is having a negative impact on the ability of the DPWI to meet its performance objectives and deliver services, especially within the Property Management Trading Entity. And yet, valuable resources are being used to defend and appeal labour matters that have little likelihood of success.

The DA urges the Minister to pursue a recruitment strategy that allows the incumbents to apply for their jobs in order to ensure that the current leadership and staffing crisis is addressed.

Statement issued by Samantha Graham-Maré MP - DA Shadow Minister of Public Works and Infrastructure, 26 April 2021