Home affairs ‘doing all it can to avert strike’

Department of home affairs employees will continue to fight for their right to overtime pay, despite claims from the department that it was doing all it could to “avert disruptions of service delivery”.

This morning home affairs director-general, Mkuseli Apleni, gave an update regarding the current situation with front office workers who, on June 6, served the department with a notice to strike should the department fail to meet their demands.

Unions who are representing the workers include the Public Servants Association (PSA), Nehawu and the National Union of Public Service and Allied Workers, with the PSA representing around 75% of the department’s members.

The main demand was that workers were demanding overtime pay for working a Saturday shift, in addition to working a normal five-day week.

In response to this the department maintained that it did not have the funds to pay employees overtime and instead proposed that workers have a Wednesday off, which meant that they would still work a normal five-day or 40-hour week.

Unions rejected this offer.

“Saturday work was implemented in 2004. Between 2004 and 2010, we paid overtime which was not sustainable.

"From 2010 to 2014, a day off was granted for Saturday work, with officials allowed to take a day off on any day of the week. That dispensation posed serious challenges.

"Officials tended to take different days in the week resulting in the department perpetually operating on limited personnel,” Apleni said.

Apleni said that officials were expected to comply with the current opening and closing hours and that they were “doing all in our power to avert disruptions of service delivery”.

Speaking to City Press, acting general manager of the PSA, Tahir Maepa, said that Apleni was being “disingenuous”.

“He only wants his way. This strike can be averted, he has that prerogative yet he has been fighting this for three years now. He even took us all the way to the Constitutional Court, and he lost that battle,” Maepa said.

The PSA had first raised the issue in 2014 with the department, and according to Maepa, the department refused to enter into negotiations with the unions through a conciliatory process.

“The arrogance of the department’s conduct resulted in the director-general of home affairs taking the PSA and other unions to the Constitutional Court.

"This only to find that the court ruled against the department in favour of the PSA on May 4 2017,” he said.

“We are willing to sit down with him and find a solution. We are still amenable. We are saying that as long as he is open to sitting down and negotiating with us then there is no need to go on strike but he refuses to do that,” Maepa said.

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