The National Organizing Secretary of the Government Manual Workers Union, Johnson Motshwarakgole, has made it clear that the Union will reject out of hand government request to pay retrenched employees only a portion of their severance packages until the legal dispute between the two parties is completed.
Government has approached the Union, making overtures that instead of paying for retrenchment packages which are in practical terms much higher, in the interim they be allowed to pay exit packages until the case has gone through the Court of Appeal.
Government says it will pay the balance if the Appeal is not successful.
In an interview, Motshwarakgole said the Union has decided to reject government proposals, and said the retrenched employees should be paid all their benefits before the company closes end of June.
“We cannot stop Government from closing their company. All we are saying is that they should pay people their money as per the law and as directed by the High Court before they close their company,” said Motshwarakgole.
The argument by RIPCO and supported by the ministry is that the company currently does not have money and that “the situation can be assuaged by paying employees the packages that are not in dispute at the moment with the balance to be paid upon the outcome of the appeal.”
Meanwhile, the ministry has ordered RIPCO to appeal the case and internal communications between the two indicates that the ministry is confident of victory at the Court of Appeal.
“On the basis that the judgment [High Court] raises serious issues of precedence affecting other state owned companies, were it to remain unchallenged and perhaps more importantly, there being substantial prospects of success on appeal as confirmed by your own lawyers and based on a second opinion obtained from Marumo Legal Consultants,” reads a letter from the Minister of Infrastructure, Science and Technology, Nonofo Molefhi.
Having lost the case at the High Court, government seems to have a hope that they are likely to win on appeal.
RIPCO is a government-owned company under the Ministry of Infrastructure, Science and Technology.
After a decision by government to merge RIPCO with another technology parastatal, BOTEC, a decision was taken by the Board of RIPCO to retrench its staff.
But a legal battle that ensued seems to have poisoned relations, with the Union now having an upper hand.
At the High Court, employees won the case that they be paid retrenchment packages.
From the correspondence this has not gone down well with Government as shareholder.