Business | Business News
This is what employees can do about unpaid salaries: take your employer to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA), the labour department or the Labour Court.
A number of employees from companies such as Denel are in dire straits because without their salaries, they are unable to pay their debts and put food on the table.
Employees are often unsure what to do when their employers fail to pay their salaries, but you can do something about it, says Michael Opperman from Omni Labour Consultants.
“First determine the reasons why your salary was not paid. If your employer is living the high life and is able to pay all his debts while expecting you to sacrifice your salary, you have various options to consider.”
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Firstly, you can put in a grievance procedure against your employer, which alerts him, although he probably already knows this, to the fact that you have not been paid and for this grievance to be solved, he has to pay your unpaid salaries.
If he does not heed this grievance procedure timeously, you can file for the declaration of a dispute for constructive dismissal and argue the criteria at the CCMA or bargaining council for your industry, Opperman says.
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You can also declare a dispute for an unfair labour practice by citing the fact that you have not been paid. This dispute is also argued first in conciliation and then in arbitration at the CCMA or bargaining council, he says.
“The problem with these two methods is that they take between one and three months to be resolved while you have now painted a target on your back for the employer to take a tactical defence and find fault with your work, although, for example, there is no real reason to get rid of you. This happens more often than you would care to imagine,” Opperman explains.
If you go the CCMA route with a grievance or a dispute and there is an outcome, resolution, agreement or award, it has the same status as a court order.
“If the employer does not honour it, the sheriff can attach the property of the employer, which mostly seems to jolt the employers’ memory of extra cash stowed away for a rainy day that can be used to pay unpaid salaries.”
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The third option is to request an inspection by the Department of Employment and Labour into the workings of the company. Opperman says the department can speedily send someone out to investigate and issue a directive regarding payment.
The inspector has right of entry by law and cannot simply be shown the door.
However, Opperman says, if the department does not act speedily, it can prolong the position of the unpaid employee.
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The last option is to take your employer to the Labour Court as an individual or in a class action for breaking the employment contract.
Opperman says a protected strike route is only a good idea if the employer has production time to lose and there is more than one person willing to strike and such a strike could financially hurt the employer.