Thousands of Transnet pensioners pin hopes on Constitutional Court

About 60‚000 Transnet pensioners have pinned their hopes on the Constitutional Court as they seek to proceed with a class action to seek billions from two pension funds.

On Thursday‚ the court heard their appeal against a Pretoria High Court order from last year.

Transnet train. File photo. Image: transnet

Transnet pension fund recipients brought a lawsuit against the Transport Pension Fund and the Transnet Second Defined Benefit Fund and Transnet in the High Court last year.

The pensioners wanted the High Court to declare that the pension funds and Transnet had broken a “promise” made in 1989 before the South African Transport Services (SATS) became Transnet.

The promise was that the practice of annually increasing members’ pensions by at least 70% of the rate of inflation would continue.

The pensioners claim that since 2003‚ the funds’ annual increase to their pension was significantly lower than what they contend was promised.

They want Transnet and the pension funds to pay the arrear increases to the pensioners with interest.

In the High Court last year‚ Transnet and the pension funds raised objections to this claim. They claimed that there was a failure to identify the terms of the promise made by Transnet.

The High Court agreed with Transnet and declined the pensioners’ case to continue on that claim.

The High Court said failure by the pensioners to state the period within which the promise would endure was a material omission in their claim.

“For example‚ when would the members of the Funds be entitled to such pension increase of at least 70% of inflation? Which members of the Funds were or are entitled to receive such benefits? Is it every member of the Funds entitled to enforce the promise irrespective of when each became a member?” the High Court said last year.

Wim Trengove SC‚ for the pensioners‚ argued before the Constitutional Court on Thursday that the pensioners pleaded for all the terms of the promise.

Trengove said SATS had over decades consistently granted pension increases of at least 70% of the rate of inflation.

Trengove said a promise was made in 1989 that the increases would continue this practice.

“The high court was incorrect in suggesting that the (pensioners) should have given greater particularity of their claim. The promise was made to all employees of Transnet and members of the pension funds at the time. There cannot be ambiguity on what our case is‚” Trengove said.

The pensioners also want Transnet to reimburse an “unlawful donation” of R309m made by one of the pension funds.

The pension funds opposed the appeal by the pensioners.

The court reserved judgment.

By: Ernest Mabuza – TimesLIVE

Source: TMG Digital.

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