City employees milking overtime to tune of R200m

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Nelson Mandela Bay municipal officials are abusing the city’s overtime system, with some claiming up to three times their monthly salaries.
Acting corporate services boss Nosipho Xhego revealed this on Tuesday to councillors serving on the corporate services committee.
The city anticipates overtime costs will balloon to R203m by the end of the financial year.
As at March 31, the bill was sitting at R147.6m.
The municipality has been in the process of reviewing its overtime policy since 2017 after locking horns with unions over some of the details of the policy and its implementation.
Xhego urged the committee members on Tuesday to finalise the policy as the National Treasury had issued a warning to the city in April to curb its overtime bill. “We already have communication of findings from the auditor-general, who raised five issues, including that the payment of overtime is more than the [legislated] 30% of salaries, and the hours are more than the [legislated] 40 hours per month, and they have also raised the issue that overtime is not pre-approved,” she said.
Xhego said these issues should be addressed in the policy before it was approved by the council. The city was, however, battling to reach common ground with the unions.“We don’t agree with the unions,” she said“They feel that [employees] should be allowed to work more than 40 hours [of overtime a month] and yet they have to justify why they had to work more than 40 hours.”The departments had given reasons for the hours claimed, with most blaming it on vacancies within the departments.“We have officials who get overtime that is two or three times their salaries.“Officials are booking themselves to work overtime.“It’s not a case of there being a vacancy but they are used to the overtime [money],” Xhego said.“I can tell you now that filling vacancies will make matters worse.“The minute you have an official who is appointed, especially in the service delivery departments, they get on the bandwagon of the overtime.“We need to tighten the policy so that we have set maximum hours,” Xhego said.Seventeen months ago, the city succumbed to pressure from the workers and unions and decided to hold in abeyance its overtime policy to allow for consultation with the unions.The process was meant to take about six months, but the council has yet to revisit its decision.Before the overtime policy was adopted by the council in 2017, all employees could claim time-and-a-half for each hour of overtime worked on Saturdays and double time for work on Sundays.Under the overtime policy, workers who earn below the R205,433-a-year threshold can still claim this, according to a longstanding bargaining council agreement, but those who earn more can only claim normal rates or time owed.This led to a standoff, with staff refusing to work overtime, and the metro’s political leadership at the time claiming sabotage because the water supply to large parts of the city was deliberately turned off.It was eventually decided that the metro’s labour department and the unions had to iron out their differences.The delays in finalising the policy were blamed on the local labour forum’s failure to meet due to a lack of a quorum at every planned meeting.Councillors said this was a cause for concern.“I find this entire process concerning regarding policies,” DA councillor Rene Meyer said.“I find it concerning that I have colleagues who serve on the forum giving different reasons as to why the meetings are not proceeding.”Meyer said she had served on the forum but was removed after the DA was told it could no longer serve on the forum.ANC councillor Nomsa Booi suggested that service delivery departments consider having standby teams.“I am concerned that the meetings are not taking place,” Booi said.EFF councillor Lukhanyo Mrara said: “It’s worrying that there is no consultation because the amounts that were mentioned are shocking.“We need to do something about this.“We need to look into how best we can sort this out.“To me, if we’re spending close to R60m it means there are vacancies.“We have to address this.” Independent Municipal and Allied Trade Union (Imatu) Eastern Cape regional manager Churchill Mothapo said he believed some progress had been made on the overtime policy.Mothapo refuted claims that they were against the 40hour monthly overtime cap. “That’s absolute nonsense. “It is legislated that claiming beyond 40 hours is unlawful and we can’t promote unlawfulness,” Mothapo said.Attempts to reach the South African Municipal Workers Union were unsuccessful.

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