Joburg EMS staff ‘owed millions’ in travel allowances

Members of the Gauteng Emergency Medical Services sing and dance as they marched through Newtown during a protest in Johannesburg on 21 September 2017. The EMS members protested against poor working conditions, salaries and management. Picture: Yeshiel Panchia

‘We pay from our own pockets and they don’t pay us for e-tolls. We are paid at the 2006 AA rate,’ an employee said.

Emergency Management Services (EMS) employees in the City of Joburg are owed millions in travel allowances that have never been increased in the last 20 years.

Despite the policy providing for annual increases to the locomotion allowance, as it is known, the city had never increased it since its first introduced in 1999.

Instead, it paid the 2006 Automobile Association (AA) rates per kilometre for the use of private vehicles for work purposes.

The AA rate had increased annually over the years to the current R3.24 per kilometre, but the municipality calculation was based on 90c per kilometre on average.

As a result of the shortfall each employee received a mere maximum allowance of R6,835 per month, compared to the up to R21,000 per month paid by other municipalities.

“We travel doing council work, but we are not properly compensated,” said an employee who asked not to be named for fear of reprisals.

“We pay from our own pockets and they don’t pay us for e-tolls. We are paid at the 2006 AA rate and although the policy says the amount must increase every year, they are not following it.

“It’s our tool of trade, we can’t do our job without it.”

At the time the allowance was supposed to be increased, petrol cost below R6 per litre but has since rose to R15.72.

The allowance scheme remained a standing dispute between the metro and staff.

Some aggrieved workers told The Citizen how they continued to fund the municipality by digging deep into their pockets to do their work.

“We struggle every month, we pay from our own pockets to travel. They have money to pay for expensive lawyers, but things are not looking good for us,” said one.

The Independent Municipal and Allied Trade Union said as there was no negotiation forum in place and it had been unable to engage the employer.

The city failed to respond to numerous requests for comment.

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