THE 70 senior managers in the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality who for the past three years were mistakenly overpaid are heading to the courts in a bid to have the metro's decision to cut their salaries overturned.
This comes after acting municipal manager Themba Hani gave the go-ahead to correct overpayments to the staff starting this month, after the SA Local Government Bargaining Council (SALGBC) in February ruled in favour of the municipality.
The directors and assistant directors want a review of the SALGBC's decision. They have been overpaid by more than R40-million since the "mistaken" payments started in 2010, which were backdated to July 2009.
The group of managers, who are represented by attorney Minnaar Niehaus, will be heading to the Port Elizabeth Labour Court tomorrow.
Last year the senior managers sought relief from the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) when the municipality wanted to correct the overpayments. Their dispute was based on their interpretation of the metro's pay parity agreement, as well as the change to the terms and conditions of employment.
The CCMA ruled in favour of the municipality and the affected staff did not indicate if they would call for a review of the case.
Niehaus has, however, said that the municipality had to finalise the current proceedings in court before it could make any decision.
"We need to understand why the municipality says they are overpaid, because we have received no explanation whatsoever," Niehaus said. "We sent correspondence to the municipality [on Monday] to get them to stop their decision, or we will go to the Labour Court."
The directors and assistant directors were mistakenly included in the implementation of pay parity for municipal staff from Uitenhage and Despatch in 2010.
This was after the staff from Uitenhage and Despatch complained they were being paid less than their Port Elizabeth counterparts with similar job descriptions, following the formation of the metro in 2000.
Senior managers were not necessarily eligible for the allowance, but some are now being overpaid by as much as R20000 each per month. Hani last month ordered the correction of the overpayments with immediate effect.
Municipal spokesman Kupido Baron said he could not comment at length because the municipality was threatened with legal action.
"Since legal action is threatened by the individuals concerned, we will have to withhold a response at this stage until we are aware of the content of the papers that could be filed," he said.
Political parties in the Bay have opposing views about the pay parity with some saying it was unfair for the municipality to suddenly decrease the salaries.
UDM councillor Mongameli Bobani said the pay parity debacle had been handled poorly by Hani, chief operating officer Israel Tsatsire and former corporate services executive director Rio Nolutshungu.
"There's a council resolution that says that people must be upgraded to higher salaries. After it was implemented, the municipality claimed there was an error.
"Hani was supposed to wait for all the court processes to take place and bring the matter to council to deliberate and not simply do things out of his own will," Bobani said.
COPE councillor Mzwandile Hote said it was "unfair" for the workers' salaries to suddenly drop as they were not at fault.
"It was not the workers who rated themselves, so they must not be punished.
"It's not easy for us to accept that some salaries are going to be cut very drastically," Hote said. The DA, however, said it felt it was high time that the overpayments were corrected.
"We don't point fingers at the officials on the receiving end of the pay parity, but we do believe the acting municipal manager has taken far too long to implement the decision to rectify it," said the party's Bay leader, councillor Leon de Villiers.
"The overpayments should have been stopped months ago and the implementation of the recovery plan should have been in place already."
Human resources portfolio chairwoman councillor Nomamerica Magopeni (ANC) was not available for comment.