City of Joburg (COJ) staffers whose disputed fixed-term contracts expired at the end of last month have been ordered to return “tools of trade” which include cellphones and laptops.
The 130 COJ staffers whose permanent jobs were reversed to fixed-term contracts that expired at the end of April are still fighting to remain employed – they have taken the matter to court.
However, the COJ insists the conversion of the fixed-term contracts to permanent positions was unlawful. Hence it moved to rescind the conversion.
In letters to affected staff dated 13 May 2022, the COJ said: “The City wishes to confirm that on or about the 30th April 2022, your fixed-term contract of employment terminated by effluxion of time.”
The letter to staff signed by Dr. Hennie Labuschagne, Acting Group Executive Director: Group Corporate and Shared Services, further said: “The City in its capacity as your employer, issued communication to return the tools of trade. You have by conduct or omission refused to return the tools of trade issued to yourself by the City.”
The City demanded that the tools of trade be returned no later than next week Monday, 16 May.
The COJ said “it reserves the right to recover amounts that may be due” if the staffer fails to comply with the request and they will also be reported to the police.
However, an affected staffer told The Bulrushes that affected employees were still challenging their termination by COJ at the courts and would not return the tools of trade before the matter was concluded.
The staffer also pointed to an internal COJ policy that specifically says that upon resignation or dismissal staffers have an option of keeping the cellphone they were using.
“In the event when a cellphone is due for an upgrade, users may be permitted to retain the old handset (take legal ownership) when the existing contract has been upgraded provided that the employee did not cause any loss of or damage to the handset, resulting in the replacement of that handset in the initial period,” reads part of the policy.
The disputed fixed-term contracts were for two years – the same period as the cellphone contracts, claimed the COJ staffer.
Asked to explain what the “tools of trade” were, McKinnley Mitchell, COJ Deputy Director: Communications and Stakeholder Management, said: “‘Tools of trade’ are the city laptops, keys and things like that.”
Mitchell referred further inquiries about what the COJ would do with the old cellphones in the unlikely event that they recovered them to the HR department, which is closed on weekends.