Answer to a question from a reader

I need help with an oustanding Occupation Specific Dispensation payment.

The short answer

We suggest that you consult your union if you were a member of a union.

The whole question

Dear Athalie

Has there been any progress in the matter of outstanding Occupation Specific Dispensation (OSD) for Department of Correctional Services members and payouts for members who were disadvantaged in the apartheid era? I had 39 years of service before retiring in 2021 and would like to be paid. 

The long answer

During my research, it became clear that there has been a great deal of dissatisfaction by members at the way the Department of Correctional Services (DCS) has dealt with OSD since at least 2012, and I could not find any evidence that these matters had finally been resolved in 2023. 

The official goal of the OSD was "to create an occupational specific dispensation for 'centre based' and 'non-centre based' correctional officials that provides for a unique salary structure; career-pathing opportunities based on competencies, experience, performance and scope of work; pay progression; grade progression based on performance; recognition of appropriate experience; and differentiated salary scales for different categories of correctional officials."

The revised salary structures unique to each identified occupation in the public service would have 3% increments between "notches". In 2009, the OSD policy said that experience would be recognised as one notch for every five years worked, calculated from the date of employment.

In 2012, in a meeting of the Parliamentary Monitoring Group, Pierre Snyman, the Chair of the Public Servants Association of South Africa (PSA) said that the implementation of Phase 2 of the OSD, which was the recognition of experience, had been "done wrongfully", so that long-serving officials had been placed on the same footing as newly appointed ones. He said that the Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (POPCRU) had declared a dispute and the arbitration had decided against the DCS. Also, the pay and grade progression did not address the problem of officials not being able to rise through the ranks. He said members earned less when the OSD was implemented than before, because their overtime was not paid. In 2012, the DCS owed between R30,000 and R70,000 to individual members because their overtime had not been paid. 

In 2017, in the Parliamentary Monitoring Group, the DCS said that the OSD for correctional officers in Resolution 2 of 2009 of the General Public Service Sector Bargaining Council (GPSSBC), which gave effect to the centre-based and non-centre-based salary structure, was only partly implemented. This was because of challenges in clause 11.1 and 11.2 of the Resolution, which dealt with years of experience for officials. 

The matter went to court and agreement was only reached in November 2016, which meant that the DSC had to place 8,147 qualifying officers on the notches they would have been on in October 2016 according to the agreement. The outstanding back payments were only paid in February 2017. They agreed to pay 30% as a one-off payment for the outstanding payments since 2009, over three years.   

The PSA newsletter Informus of 9.03.21 reported as follows: "During previous meetings, the employer reported that 6,306 retired members qualified to receive their OSD payments. To date, 3,567 members were paid. 2,739 members’ payment is still outstanding. From the 2,739 members, 733 members’ documents are in order and are in the process of being sent to the internal audit division to finalise and process payments. A total of 2,006 members’ documents were found to be incomplete and the employer is busy gathering all the relevant information. A further 1,360 members were only paid 23% in terms of the settlement agreement and the employer indicated that it must still process a further 7% for these members."

The PSA newsletter Informus of 28.06.21 said that members would recall that the payment of the second-phase OSD was still outstanding for employees who had retired or resigned from the DCS. It said that despite the parties signing a settlement agreement on how the payments should be made, the DCS had still failed to make the payments to the qualifying employees. The PSA declared a dispute to force the DCS to provide an updated report on total outstanding payments and to ensure that payments were made as soon as possible. The DCS said it would provide an updated report to the union during the first half of July 2021.

By December 2021 the matter was in the courts and so the DCS said they could not comment till it was resolved.

In subsequent issues of the PSA newsletter, I found no further report on the outstanding OSD payments to former DCS employees. 

I was unable to find any mention of payment for previous discrimination in the DCS under apartheid. 

I think my only advice in this long dreadful story would be to consult your union if you were a member of a union like the PSA or POPCRU and ask them to assist you to get your outstanding payments. 

Wishing you the best,

Answered on Jan. 22, 2024, 11:01 a.m.

See more questions and answers

Please note. We are not lawyers or financial advisors. We do our best to make the answers accurate, but we cannot accept any legal liability if there are errors.