Union fights discrimination case for member in wheelchair

2011-07-11 00:00

THE government may have the best policies on the fair and dignified treatment of the disabled, but according to trade union the Public Service Association (PSA), these are not always carried out.

The PSA is locked in a struggle with the KZN Department of Arts and Culture over the treatment of wheelchair-bound member Makhosi Mnguni. According to the union — whose reports differ from that of the department — Mnguni was injured on duty and discriminated against. The PSA’s Roshan Lil-Ruthan says the union is seeking legal opinion to pursue an injury-on-duty and discrimination case in the Labour Court.

Lil-Ruthan said Mnguni has been locked in a battle with the department since 2004 for suitable wheelchair-friendly office space.

In 2006 she was seconded to an office on the second floor where the lifts were regularly out of order and there was no toilet for her.

In 2007 the Education Department took over the offices and Mnguni was allegedly told to stay at home until suitable office space was found for her. She wrote to the minister about her plight and in 2008 was seconded to the archives. Lil-Ruthan said she was placed in an office that was previously a strongroom and had no ventilation. There she was injured in a fall from her wheelchair.

Lil-Ruthan alleges that this injury was never reported to the Department of Labour. Mnguni went back to her home in Ulundi and in May her salary was suddenly stopped.

Arts and Culture spokesperson Vukani Mbele said that in early 2009 Mnguni relocated from Ulundi to Pietermaritzburg to work as an assistant manager for labour relations. She was paid a relocation fee.

Mbele said her last day at work was June 2, 2009, and the department later heard that she was injured at work and had gone back to Ulundi. Later that year she formally asked to be transferred back to Ulundi, but did not fulfil the conditions the department set for this to happen.

After not hearing from Mnguni, a delegation visited her in July 2010 to find out why she was not responding to department correspondence.

When they still received no correspondence from Mnguni, her salary was stopped. Lil-Ruthan said Mnguni has her correspondence and all documents showing that she did keep her employer informed.

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