Mortuary strike set to cover all of KZN

2014-04-09 00:00

PRIVATE funeral parlours and grieving families will be dealt a heavy blow if the ongoing strike by government mortuary employees is prolonged.

The employees went on strike on Monday and yesterday their union, Public and Allied Workers’ Union of South Africa (Pawusa), called on a total shutdown of the 40 state mortuaries around the province.

On Monday and yesterday only nine mortuaries were affected by the strike but following yesterday’s meeting where the union said the provincial Health Department failed to address their work-related concerns, the union said the gloves were off.

Nash Jadoo of Mbali Funeral Furnishers in Pietermaritzburg said the strike was not the only way to resolve differences between the two parties.

“It is insensitive of the two parties to let their difference escalate to a strike action,” said Jadoo.

“They should be more considerate of the grieving families. If we can’t get the service from the state mortuaries then we won’t be able to service our clientele.”

Jodene Smith, Doves’ regional manager in Durban, echoed Jadoo’s sentiments, adding that scheduled funeral services were already affected and that all arrangements now had to be put on hold.

“This also places a strain on the operation when the loved ones are released, which in turn will cause a delay in registering of death certificates,” said Smith.

“Certain religious groups and cultures have to bury or cremate within a specific period and this in itself causes extended trauma when the families cannot meet these requirements,” he said.

Another funeral parlour operator in Pinetown, Jabulani Gama, said the strike actions exposed bereaved families to trauma which could be avoided. “This [has] happened before and we [have] faced the painful experience of consoling bereaved family members who could not get their loved ones from state mortuaries,” said Gama.

Pawusa demands that the Health Department, as a custodian of the state mortuaries, deal with the unhealthy working conditions in some mortuaries and also resolve the recognition of job experience issue.

Regional secretary Halalisani Gumede told The Witness that they held a “fruitless meeting” with the department yesterday which prompted the call for the total shut-down of the mortuaries.

Gumede said since the department took charge of the forensic component in 2006, issues of salary adjustments has not been resolved.

“We engaged [the department] in 2008 and 2009 for the issues to be addressed,” said Gumede.

“Some of us work under appalling conditions. Air conditioners are broken. There are flies and we have no appropriate work clothes such as gloves and masks.

“Some of the employees have died of diseases like TB due to the filth in some of these mortuaries. These are the issues we want the employer to address,” said Gumede.

Gumede said that the Health Department has requested more time to look into the matter. “The employer is not approaching us in good faith, they are taking us for granted. It is for that reason that we are calling for a total shut-down of state mortuaries from Wednesday [today] until all these issues are addressed.”

Health MEC Sibongiseni Dhlomo said he was not aware of the shut-down.

“I was in another meeting in Pietermaritzburg. I will request a report from the team that attended the meeting with the union,” he said.

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