PRESS STATEMENT | 195 former Ekurhuleni Metro employees have their day in court

Date: 25/05/2021


Following a brief postponement, Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR) is back in the Labour Appeal Court today representing dismissed workers of the Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality in the case of Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality v Lawrence Madonsela & 198 Others case no:. JA29/20.  The workers in this case were employed twice and unfairly dismissed twice by the Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality.

 

The workers in this matter were semi-skilled workers who formed part of the Lungile Mtshali Development Plan Project, a “job-creation programme”, which promised them practical and theoretical training as well as the formation of co-operatives.  This never happened.  Instead, they worked for the Municipality fulfilling the Municipality’s obligations of, amongst other things, cleaning streets and drains but without the benefits of employment.

While working for the Municipality, they wanted to be recognised as permanent employees because the work that they did was not temporary in nature and there was no justifiable reason for fixing the term of their contracts.  As a result, they referred a case to the South African Local Government Bargaining Council (SALGBC) to be declared permanent employees of the Municipality in terms of section 198B of the Labour Relations Act.  Shortly after this, they were dismissed.

Following the applicants’ dismissal, the Municipality engaged a company called Hlaniki Investment Holdings to recruit, provide, and manage the employees to do the same work for the Municipality that they had done previously.  The Gauteng Enterprise Propeller was also engaged by the Municipality to co-ordinate a “job-creation programme”, in which the employees were supposed to partake.  On 14 December 2015, the workers signed a further contract of employment with Hlaniki and the Gauteng Enterprise Propeller.  In terms of this contract, they continued performing the same work for the Municipality but without the benefits promised in terms of the “job-creation programme”.

The workers wanted to be recognised as permanent employees of the Municipality but instead were later dismissed.  As a result, they referred a second case to the SALGBC in terms of section 198A of the Labour Relations Act to be declared permanent employees of the Municipality.  In 2018, the workers approached the Labour Court for an order declaring that they were the employees of the Municipality in terms of both contracts and seeking relief for both unfair dismissals.  The Labour Court found in favour of the workers in terms of the first dismissal only and ordered the Municipality to pay compensation equal to twelve months’ remuneration to each of the workers.

In 2020, the Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality (the appellant) filed an application to appeal the judgment of the Labour Court.  In response, the workers (the fourth respondent) filed an application to cross-appeal the judgment.  The workers want the Labour Appeal Court to declare that they were permanent employees of the Municipality in terms of the two contracts and order their reinstatement effective from 1 July 2015 and order their back-pay up until date of reinstatement.  “Job creation programmes often lead to the exploitation of workers, whether intentionally or due to negligence in the management thereof, instead of actually alleviating poverty and creating jobs. In cases like this, Municipalities avoid their obligations as employers resulting in the violation of workers’ rights” said Jessica Lawrence, attorney for LHR.

Mobilisation and support for this case was provided by the Casual Workers Advice Office, a non-profit organisation that offers free advice and support to precarious workers.

For more information contact:

Jessica Lawrence

Phone: 082 772 9857

E-mail: jessical@lhr.org.za