Bonus tap opens for top-performing water boss after three-year legal fight

12 February 2018 - 07:18 By Dave Chambers
Image: Gallo Images/iStockphoto

Financial chief Cyrus Tavaria was annoyed after getting a 107% performance rating from Johannesburg Water at the end of 2014 but being denied a bonus‚ alongside fellow senior managers.

He challenged the decision‚ and three years later the Labour Court in Johannesburg has called the board’s decision to withhold Tavaria’s bonus “patently arbitrary‚ capricious and inconsistent with the remuneration policy and constitutional imperatives”.

Judge Portia Nkutha-Nkontwana said the board had no right to arbitrarily decide that only staff in the three top pay grades would not get bonuses.

Tavaria complained to the Commission for Conciliation‚ Mediation and Arbitration‚ which found Johannesburg Water guilty of an unfair labour practice. The company appealed‚ but Nkutha-Nkontwana said last week it had ignored its own rules in withholding the bonus.

Its remuneration policy said up to 3.5% of annual payroll would be allocated based on each individual’s performance rating as long as the company achieved 85% of its performance target — which it did in 2014.

“The [CCMA] commissioner found that the affected employees were presented with a fait accompli as the decision not to pay the bonuses was not preceded by any consultation‚” said the judge.

“He also rejected the reason provided by Johannesburg Water that the [senior] employees were subjected to a collective punishment for the unsatisfactory organisational performance.

“Mr Tavaria could not have known that he was going to be held responsible for the performance of his [senior] colleagues. It is inescapable that the decision not to pay the bonuses ... was injudicious as it deprived deserving employees like Mr Tavaria of a well-entrenched benefit.”