Strike action looms at Home Affairs after talks collapse

(iStock)
(iStock)

Cape Town - The Public Servants Association of South Africa (PSA) is gearing up for a strike after a dispute to change the work week from 5 to 6 days without any additional compensation.  

The 230 000 strong PSA, which is affiliated to The Federation of Unions of South Africa (Fedusa) served 10-day strike notice on the Department of Home Affairs in the public service.

This followed unsuccessful conciliation talks at the Public Sector Coordinating Bargaining Council (PSCBC) on Tuesday.

"The Department amended the working hours of its employees without any consultation," said PSA acting general manager Tahir Maepa. "This led to the PSA declaring a dispute in 2014, with the first conciliation being set down for 2 April 2015.”
 
Maepa said the union patiently tried to persuade the Department since then to meet the Union in conciliation to avoid industrial action and settle the dispute. Instead, the Department involved the PSA and other unions in protracted litigation in Courts to avoid dealing with the matter in a conciliatory approach.
 
“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, only to have it rule in favour of the PSA on May 4 this year”.
 
Maepa said the ConCourt ruled that the PSCBC commissioner was vested with powers to conciliate the matter regardless of whether it was one of rights or interests.
 
“It was made clear in the judgment that it was not the duty of the commissioner to determine whether it was a rights or interests matter but whether it merited conciliation. The ConCourt agreed with the commissioner that the matter merited conciliation and ordered that it be convened on 6 June 2017,” Maepa added.
 
“The Department upfront indicated that it will not be able to meet any of labour’s demands if such demands seek monetary compensation or have budgetary implications."

He said labour engaged the Department with various proposals to settle the matter amicably.
 
“The Department’s proposal unfortunately still did not consider the impact that working on a Saturday will have on workers, especially women. Challenges include the lack of child-care facilities on a Saturday and the lack of safe transport. The enforcement of Saturday work also further infringes on the Constitutional right of workers to freely practice their religion on a Saturday”.

However, Maepa remained open to all discussions aimed at avoiding a strike. This sentiment is supported by Fedusa acting president Chris Klopper.

“A decision to embark on industrial action is always a very tough decision. Sometimes akin to swinging a tiger by its tail – you cannot afford to stop swinging,” said Klopper.
 
“We fully support the PSA in this matter and wish them luck. Hopefully it will be possible to resolve the matter as soon as possible”.

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