Burying loved ones a worry as strike looms
Home Affairs’ staff talks break down regarding overtime pay
BEREAVED families across the country could face a situation whereby they can’t bury their deceased loved ones should a planned strike by Home Affairs workers go ahead on June 19.
Home Affairs director-general Mkuseli Apleni sounded the alarm at a media briefing in Pretoria yesterday.
He was giving feedback on the failed conciliation talks between the department and the Public Servants Association, with regard to disputes on overtime payments.
He said the situation would mean that families could not bury their loved ones. “If death struck in a family during the strike, the deceased cannot be buried without a death certificate,” he said.
Apleni expressed concern that the imminent strike would impede the department’s issuing of death certificates, among other services.
People would also not be able to travel abroad, because the officials on strike would not be available to assist them with the required documentation.
“It would mean child grants cannot be provided as this is also dependent on birth certificates being issued,” Apleni pointed out.
Talks between the two parties collapsed on Wednesday at the General Public Service Sector Bargaining Council.
He said the department was concerned by threats of a labour strike ahead of the winter school holidays, which was their busiest period in the year.
“Ahead of the holidays, the number of clients requesting travel documents shoots up, as families prepare for the long break,” he said.
Last week, Apleni assured the public that civic services’ front offices would continue to operate on Saturdays.
“Saturday work was implemented in 2004. Between 2004 and 2010, we paid overtime, which was not sustainable,” Apleni said.
In 2010, the department spent R14 million for the year on overtime payments.
“We are not in a financial position to consider and accede to the demand for overtime pay. Thus, we presented the alternative settlement proposal for officials to take a day off on Wednesdays, so that they can work six days a week, and remain within a 40-hour week,” he added.
From 2010 to 2014, a day off was granted for Saturday work allowing officials to take a day off on any day of the week.
“But that dispensation posed serious challenges. Officials tended to take off on different days in the week resulting in the department perpetually operating on limited personnel,” Apleni said.
During negotiations, the department proposed that officials be granted a day off on Wednesdays for every Saturday worked. But the proposal was rejected by the unions.
He said the proposal was intended to resolve the challenge of limited personnel.
“As we seek a solution, the status quo will remain. Officials are expected to comply with the current opening and closing hours, including service provision on Saturdays. We are doing everything in our power to avert disruption of service delivery,” Apleni said.
To alleviate the impact of the imminent strike, he said the department would ask other government departments to assist with the running of the offices, including manning the country’s ports of entry.
He said the implementation of new working and closing hours was intended to broaden access. The decision to have working hours on weekends was a cabinet decision to assist the public.