House deals grind to halt

2018-02-21 14:52
Deeds office staff go slow over conditions.

Deeds office staff go slow over conditions. (File)

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House transfers throughout the province have ground to a halt as staff at the Pietermaritzburg deeds office have downed tools over their working conditions.

Since last Monday, about 150 staff at the office have effectively stopped working over a lack of air conditioning in the building and other concerns.

The Institute of Estate Agents (IEASA) told The Witness that this has brought the entire KZN property transfer system to its knees, since there was no other way of processing or registering properties.

Meanwhile staff members at the deeds office who spoke to The Witness on Tuesday claimed they’d had to work in “hot and stuffy” conditions for the last six years. They said they had complained to management about three years ago, to no avail.

“So what happens is, we come to work and when conditions become unbearable, we come downstairs and sit outside,” a staff member said.

Workers were adamant they would continue with this action until the department responds to their demands.

Staff members took a reporter to various offices in the building. Most offices are cramped and stuffy, and have no windows. A large office where conveyancers work has no air conditioning.

Staff have put most of the lights off in an attempt to reduce heat. Some were seen sitting in corridors in front of fans.

“To examine a deed, you have to concentrate as there will be trouble if you miss something. We can’t be expected to do that in these conditions and we’ve been patient enough with [the department],” a staffer said.

Bruce Campbell, chairperson of IEASA in KZN, said: “This would affect everyone who needed to purchase or sell property. I have a client who is emigrating, but he can’t until the transfer goes through.

“People keep calling me to ask what’s going on, but I have to tell them there’s nothing we can do. It’s that office, in the whole of KZN, or nothing.”

Campbell added: “I’ve spoken to many [conveyancing] attorneys who go there every day and [they] say the conditions there are appalling.”

The National Education Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) yesterday submitted a petition outlining concerns to the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform.

The petition argued that the conditions — which were apparently making staff members sick — were in contravention of occupational health and safety policies outlined in the Constitution.

Zimasile Giyama, Nehawu secretary for the Harry Gwala region, said: “We’ve been patient enough with them. We know the public relies on us and people come from as far as Nongoma to use our services, so management must listen.”

The Department of Rural Development and Land Reform did not respond to The Witness’ inquiry on Tuesday.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg

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