“It’s an emotional and sensitive matter, “ said Bevan Ellman, the Director for Corporate Services for Knysna Municipality.
He was responding to objections by municipal staff to their increased rentals of municipal properties.
The goal of renting flats and houses to staff at greatly reduced prices was meant to assist new staff in relocating from other towns, a way to attract skills. But poor administration led to staff benefiting for years instead of months.
In 2014, Council took the resolution to increase rentals. Owing to staff objections, the matter was delayed. In 2015, Council reaffirmed that rents must be market related, beginning January 2016.
Staff were given 2 months notice. 12 of the 23 tenants failed to sign a new contract – those are objecting.
Ellman stated that the rental agreements allow rent to be raised and for that to be deducted from tenants’ salaries. Furthermore, national legislation insists that market related rent be charged so, in fact, Knysna Municipality was in contravention for years.
ANC Chief Whip Stephen de Vries pointed out that, at both Council meetings, it had also been decided to take it to the Labour Forum. “Did that in fact happen,” he asked.
Ellman said that it hadn’t. He argued that it was only a minority of the 700 staff so not big enough to be a labour issue.
De Vries reacted strongly with, “It’s a labour matter presented by a union,” meaning that it’s definitely a labour issue.
Municipal Manager Grant Easton pointed out that the 2014 recommendation by Council was that it was only to be sent to the Labour Forum for explanation and noting, not debate.
De Vries said that that attitude wasn’t going to get anyone anywhere. He suggested that this could be part of the skills shortage problem in Knysna. He indicated that some properties were in need of repair, an increase in rent unjustified.
The poor state of municipal properties has been discussed, separately, in Council before, again a failure of administration.
It was decided to not enforce the Council’s previous resolution until there had been more discussion and it had been sent to the Labour Forum.