Transnet has 20 days to file plea to oppose claim by 60‚000 pensioners

25 April 2018 - 15:33 By Ernest Mabuza
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Transnet and two pension funds have 20 court days within which to file a plea in answer to the class action claim by about 60‚000 Transnet pensioners.

This follows a Constitutional Court judgment on Wednesday which dismissed exceptions to the claim raised by Transnet‚ the Transport Pension Fund and Transnet Second Defined Pension Fund a few years ago.

The pensioners’ claim is based on a promise made to them in 1989 that they would receive the same pension benefits under a commercial entity‚ Transnet‚ as they did under the state entity that had employed them until then‚ the South African Transport Services (SATS)‚ and its two pension funds.

The pension funds kept the promise until 2002‚ when the funds failed to grant any pension increases beyond the minimum of 2% per year.

The pensioners had calculated that the debt owed to the two pension funds stood at R80-billion by March 2013. This figure is now higher.

When the case was due to be heard by the high court in Pretoria in 2013‚ Transnet and the pension funds raised an exception to the claim by the pensioners.

Pretoria High Court Judge Francis Legodi upheld Transnet’s exceptions to the claim by the pensioners in a judgment in 2016.

He said the claim by the pensioners was vague and embarrassing as it did not contain sufficient details particularity regarding who would decide the rate of the pension increase and who would benefit from the promise.

This meant Transnet did not have to file a plea to answer the claim against it.

Following the Constitutional Court judgment on Wednesday‚ Geyser and Coetzee Attorneys – which represents the pensioners – said it was still hopeful for a speedy and favourable conclusion.

“The effect of this judgement is that Transnet and the Pension Funds must file their Plea in answer to the Pensioners’ claim within 20 court days‚” the law firm said in a statement.

In its judgment on Wednesday‚ the Constitutional Court said the pensioners – in their particulars of claim – pleaded that the 1989 promise was made orally by the general manager of SATS.

“The pleaded contract is simple and straightforward‚ but its simplicity is elegant‚ rather than vague‚” Justice Johan Froneman said in a unanimous judgment by the court.

He said the terms of the contract were expressly and clearly set out and so were the parties bound by those terms.

“There is nothing vague and embarrassing that prevents [the pension funds and Transnet] from knowing what case they have to meet‚” Froneman said.

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