Unions call for day off

2011-12-13 00:00

WHILE President Jacob Zuma is considering a proposal to grant working South Africans a holiday on December 27, business is rejecting this proposal “because it will negatively affect production”.

Two major South African union federations — Cosatu and the Federation of Unions of SA (Fedusa) — support the proposal for an extra holiday on December 27 because this year’s Christmas Day falls on a Sunday.

On the other side, Pietermaritzburg’s Chamber of Commerce CEO Melanie Veness rejected the proposal.

Last month Fedusa wrote to Zuma requesting him to declare December 27 a holiday because Christmas is on a Sunday, effectively robbing workers of a public holiday.

In terms of the Public Holidays Act, when a public holiday falls on a Sunday, the following working day is declared a holiday.

However, because the following day is already a holiday, this year’s Christmas falls outside the ambit of the act.

Presidential spokesperson Mac Maharaj confirmed that the presidency received the proposal, which is still being considered.

Fedusa general secretary Dennis George said the last time this occurred was in 2005 and in March 2008, Fedusa was also instrumental in pointing out that Good Friday and Human Rights Day fell on the same day. An extra holiday was eventually granted by the then president Thabo Mbeki.

Only the president can intervene to proclaim December 27 a paid holiday.

Cosatu spokesperson Patrick Craven concurred with George on the proposal for the holiday.

However, Veness said: “Statistics show that South Africa is becoming less productive, which should be of concern to all of us … While one cannot help but sympathise with the unions’ view on this matter, because of the time of year, declaring an additional holiday will no doubt set a precedent for this scenario occurring at other times of the year.

“Because of this, and because it is a complex matter, we don’t feel that the 27th should be declared a public holiday, rather that the union should negotiate directly with the businesses concerned,” Veness said.

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