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Fired Joburg council workers win first round in fight to regain their jobs

Nomazima Nkosi Senior reporter
Joburg mayor Mpho Phalatse.
Joburg mayor Mpho Phalatse.

An application by 130 employees fired by the City of Johannesburg to interdict their employer from advertising their posts, pending the outcome of a bargaining council decision has been successful.

The group submitted an urgent interdict after the city issued notices informing them of its intention to terminate their contracts at the end of April.

On Friday, Labour Court judge Connie Prinsloo also interdicted the municipality from implementing the February 25 decision that saw council rescind an October decision where fixed term contracts were converted permanently.

The 130 were initially employed as political support staff in the city but their contracts were later converted by the previous administration, which was led by the ANC, so that they became permanent employees.

Contracts for political staff are usually attached to the term of office of the political head and generally are not longer than five years.

In February, the DA-led coalition reserved the conversion of contracts saying the decision taken in October was irregular.

In her judgment, Prinsloo wrote: "The applicants brought an urgent application after all attempts to obtain an undertaking from the respondents failed. Had the respondents considered the matter properly, they should have agreed not to terminate the applicants' employment on 30 April 2022 and not to fill their positions with effect from 1 May 2022, pending the resolution of the dispute at the SALBC.

"Why the respondents are so driven to terminate the applicants' contracts and to employ replacements, notwithstanding the fact there is a process ongoing at the SABLC, the outcome of which will no doubt have a bearing on the future of the applicants and their employment at the municipality is not clear".

In his argument, Adv Andrew Redding who was representing the city stated that the applicants stood a better chance of being appointed should the positions be re-advertised.

However, Prinsloo found the statement bizarre as the respondents stated the applicants were not suitable for the permanent employment in political office due to incompatibility.

"Yet on the other hand they are free to apply for the positions, should they be advertised and they even stand a better chance of being successful in their applications for appointment."

While debating the State of the City Address, ANC caucus leader, Mpho Moerane beamed when he told council the City of Joburg 130 had won their court case.

"Today, at this moment, they have won the case.

"The court has ordered the city must pay the cost from their own pockets," Moerane said.