Some former members of the South African Police Service are embroiled in a legal battle with the SAPS and its medical aid scheme Polmed after they were notified that, although they may continue with their membership of the scheme, they will no longer be subsidised by the police force.
The members say it is unfair and contrary to the scheme’s rules, while the scheme says it is lawful and that it can, in any event, no longer afford the subsidies for the members because this would place the scheme in insolvency.
Trade union Solidarity launched an urgent Pretoria High Court bid on behalf of 88 members of the medical scheme in which members asked that their membership of the medical aid fund be restored in full. Judgment was reserved and several former SAPS members in the same position are waiting in anticipation for the outcome, as the ruling will have a bearing on them as well.
Polmed gave a number of former SAPS members notice at the end of last year that they would be responsible for the subsidised portion of the membership fees. This portion had been paid by the SAPS for both present and former members as part of their conditions of employment.
The applicants say they had simply been informed that they either had to pay the subsidy themselves or their membership of the scheme would be suspended. Several members’ membership was subsequently suspended.
It was argued on behalf of the members that their conditions of employment, agreed during their period of service in the SAPS, made provision for members with more than 10 years of service to remain as continued members of Polmed.
They say that in addition the conditions of employment clearly stated that former employees were entitled to the subsidy on their monthly medical aid premiums.
It was argued that the decision by Polmed and the SAPS to halt the payment of subsidies to former employees constituted an unlawful, one-sided amendment to the conditions of employment.
Polmed and the SAPS, on the other hand, argued that the former employer (the SAPS) should no longer be held accountable for the subsidies. They said the applicants were former members of the SAPS who had resigned to seek better options.
Most of these people, the court was told, were now self-employed and they were enjoying better employment conditions elsewhere.
The court heard that there was a practice within the SAPS where members who resigned after serving more than 10 years in the SAPS, were entitled to become continuation members of the medical scheme against payment of their normal monthly premiums and payouts by the SAPS of monthly subsidy contributions towards the scheme.
Polmed and the SAPS, however, argued that the members all voluntarily resigned from the SAPS and upon resignation ceased to be employees of the SAPS and thus were no longer members of Polmed. They could, however, stay on as continuation members, which was subject to them paying their contributions in full.
Only members with more than 10 years’ unbroken service with the SAPS were invited to stay on as continuation members. The police said during 2005 and 2006 Polmed received many new applications from former SAPS members for continuation membership.
A meeting was held to consider the impact of the influx of these members and it was decided that SAPS members who had resigned were not entitled to continuation membership without paying their full contributions.
This article was originally published on page 4 of Pretoria News on May 02, 2009 and online on ~uwww.iol.co.za#http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?set_id=1&click_id=125&art_id=vn20090502073501955C247929~