IMATU successful in labour court Unilateral deductions from employee’s salaries for services unconstitutional

IMATU has recently challenged the constitutionality of Item 10 of Schedule 2 of the Local Government Municipal Systems Act. This followed complaints by IMATU members in various municipalities (in this case Oudsthoorn Municipality) raising complaints about the municipality making unilateral deductions from staff members’ salaries in respect of alleged arrear rates and services.

IMATU challenged the relevant municipal legislation in the Labour Court, on the basis that the provision constitutes self-help and that municipalities make these deductions without consent.

On 20 July 2020, the Labour Court declared the section to be in violation of section 34 of the Constitution as it inter alia imposed strict liability on an employee, constituted self-help and allowed a municipal accounting officer unrestrained power to determine, unilaterally, the instalments without agreement with the employee. The deductions were declared unlawful.

The Judge has applied reading-in and has ordered that Item 10 of Schedule 2 of the Local Government Municipal Systems Act now reads as follows:

“A staff member of a municipality may not be in arrears to the Municipality for rates and services or service charges for a period longer than three months, and a municipality may deduct any outstanding amounts from a staff member’s salary after this period only with the consent of the staff member, or failing such consent, in terms of a court order or judgment of a competent court authorizing such deduction.”

We are delighted with the judgement as it now confirms that no deduction can be done without the employees consent or a court order.

Please ensure that these principles are applied in your Municipality