‘Humiliated’ inspectors vindicated

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Health inspectors working in the Nelson Mandela Bay municipality’s public health department were unfairly stripped of their titles as senior and principal environmental health officers and were deprived of career progression.The city will now have to regrade the 29 health inspectors to the correct grading and pay them R15,000 each for the demotion, by the end of November 2019.This was the judgment by Labour Court acting judge Faan Coetzee.The application to review the earlier judgment by SA Bargaining Council commissioner Henk Jacobs in October 2017 that the city had unfairly demoted the inspectors was dismissed with costs in the Port Elizabeth Labour Court.The city now has seven months to regrade and compensate the heath inspectors for the humiliation suffered.In his judgment, Coetzee wrote that the municipality had not complied with the collective agreement that had been reached by unions and all parties involved.The health inspectors, who were either principal or senior health inspectors, were demoted when the Port Elizabeth Municipality merged with the Uitenhage and Despatch Municipality to form the metro.“Due to the unilateral amendment, by omitting the post of environmental health officer and combining it with the senior environmental health officer, the post of senior environmental health officer was never on its own evaluated,” Coetzee wrote.“The provincial job evaluation committee created a vacuum in the evaluation by evaluating the entry level post and then went straight to the job description of principal health environmental officer as the next level post.”Coetzee wrote that there should have been three grades, with clear job descriptions, in line with other municipalities, but there were only two.“It is common cause that it was a vital requirement for the implementation of task [grading] that job descriptions had to be drafted for all posts within the staff establishment,” he said.“The responsibility to ensure that there are job descriptions for each post on the staff establishment is the function of the municipal manager.“The failure by the [municipality] caused unfair treatment of and the subsequent demotion of the [health inspectors].”One of the health inspectors, who asked not to be named for fear of victimisation, said they welcomed the judgment “because the court has once again said that we were mistreated, and disgraced”.The inspector said the judgment meant they could now work without supervision, which would boost morale.“It is very unfortunate that when all the other metros in the country did the right thing, Nelson Mandela Bay Metro did not,” the inspector said.“These are hard times and council isn’t hiring, while many people have left [the city] for better pay in municipalities where the grading is correct.”Municipal spokesperson Mthubanzi Mniki said: “The municipality does not regret challenging the original finding, as it could have gone either way. A decision to have a matter of this nature reviewed can therefore not be deemed to be wasteful or irregular expenditure.”The municipality would follow due process guided by the order, he said.

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