Undertakers’ organisation goes on strike
LEADING funeral parlour associations have distanced themselves from the planned strike action by some unhappy operators in Gauteng, saying they would rather engage the government than embark on a strike.
As fears mount that the strike led by Unification Task Team (UTT) over a range of complaints – such as the demand for the issuing of a certificate of competence – could spread to other parts of South Africa, including KwaZulu-Natal, two prominent groups have distanced themselves from the action.
Funeral Federation of South Africa chairperson John Storom said that while they understood UTT’s grievances, they believed that strike action was not an appropriate option.
He equally slammed the lack of an appropriate response from the department, which had given rise to the prospect of a strike. “It is unfortunate that it has to take the possibility of a strike for policymakers and officials to start taking operators seriously,” said the chairperson.
He added that during one of the meetings held with a senior member of Parliament last year, they had been hopeful that their problems would be attended to.
“One of the reasons we engaged with the senior MP was because we wanted the matter to be brought before the attention of the Cabinet, but despite the undertaking there has been no movement at all. It is the unfortunate nature of the government.”
The federation, he said, had members across South Africa, from more than 4 500 individual funeral operators.
Another national body, the South African Funeral Practitioners’ Association (Safpa), also distanced itself from the mooted strike action.
Speaking to The Mercury yesterday, Safpa national secretary Thembi Molefe said they would not be part of the strike.
“As you are calling me right now we are having a national conference to be held over three days and are not party to any strike that is being planned,” said Molefe.
According to their website, Safpa was formed 21 years ago and has 750 registered members nationally.
UTT’s Muzi Hlengwa insisted that the strike would go ahead across the country, including in KZN.
“It is going ahead because the department is negotiating in bad faith,” he told The Mercury last night.
He said they believed that their demands, including for permission for funeral undertakers to have permanent Designated Officer numbers, would help flush out corrupt operators in the industry.
The strike action comes despite the Department of Home Affairs stating earlier this week that it had issued a circular to staff, provincial departments of health and metropolitan and district municipalities, granting provisional designation for funeral parlours or undertakers to temporarily conduct business relating to Home Affairs registration of deaths.
It said that in an engagement with UTT leaders in Pretoria last week, Home Affairs director-general Tommy Makhode undertook to consult the Department of Health and the SA Local Government Association to seek their input in revising the regulations and implementation of issues related to the management of human remains.
According to the department, all the parties had agreed to continue working together to find a lasting solution to these challenges.