The Western Cape Department of Health has appealed to the Constitutional Court to overturn a Labour Court victory of 50 doctors that forced the department to pay them R28m in backdated scarce-skills allowances, says a Cape Argus report.

In the appeal of the 13-year-old case, Health MEC Nomafrench Mbombo argues that the 50 doctors are not entitled to receive the allowance because it is payable only to public service employees and the doctors are employed by UCT and Stellenbosch University and thus fall outside the registered scope of the bargaining council.

However, in their affidavit opposing the MEC’s appeal, the doctors, led by first respondent, retired principal specialist André Coetzee, maintained that they are entitled to the allowance because they all hold the posts of principal and chief specialists at the relevant public hospitals.

As such, they claim, they fall within the express scope of the collective agreement, as they are ‘designated health professionals working in public sector hospitals’.

The doctors submit that the wording of the collective agreement is clear and unambiguously indicates that the allowance is to be paid by the provincial departments of health to all principal and chief specialists without exception.

The report notes the scarce-skills allowance in question was in the amount of 15% of the annual salary earned by the doctors and was payable to designated employees appointed on a full time basis.

The allowance was backdated to 1 July 2003, (the implementation date) and remained in force until 30 June 2009, when it was replaced by a new remuneration model (the occupation-specific dispensation) which the respondents are paid as part of their remuneration.

The matter is to be heard in the Constitutional Court on 14 November.

Full Cape Argus report (subscription needed)