PRETORIA, June 8 – Home Affairs director-general Mkuseli Apleni on Thursday announced that his department had been served with a notice to strike by unions representing front office staff.
“If this strike is to take place, it would interrupt mandatory services home affairs provides to citizens as enjoined by the Constitution of the Republic. Thus, as home affairs, we are deeply concerned by threats of a labour strike, ahead of one of our busiest periods in the year, that is, the school winter holidays. Ahead of the holidays, the number of client requests for travel documents shoots up as families prepare for the long break,” Apleni said as he addressed a media conference in Pretoria.
Apleni said the home affairs employees had resolved to take to the streets in relation to an ongoing dispute over working hours for the front office staffers. These are the offices which receive and process requests for various services from South African citizens and other clients.
If the strike happens on June 19, it would continue indefinitely.
“The notice to strike was received from unions on Tuesday, subsequent to the regrettable failure of conciliation, which was meant to resolve the dispute, especially over provision of services to citizens on Saturdays. The D-day for the strike is June 19,” said Apleni.
“It should be noted, Saturday work was implemented since 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 a proposal was tabled, which offered that the home affairs staff be granted a day-off on Wednesdays for every Saturday worked, to curb the challenge of limited personnel in the department.
“We are not in a financial position to consider and accede to the demand for overtime pay. Thus, we presented the alternative settlement proposal, for officials to receive a day off on Wednesdays, so that they do not work for 6 days a week, and remain within 40 hours,” he said.
Apleni cautioned that if the strike happened at home affairs, it would hurt service provision.
“Our people have no alternative for home affairs services. Therefore there is a need for us to find a speedy and amicable solution, ensuring we become even more relevant, accessible and responsive to the needs of the people,” he said.
Conciliation efforts have been held at the General Public Service Sector Bargaining Council pursuant to the Constitutional Court’s directive that the dispute be referred for conciliation.
Apleni said in the absence of an agreement with the employees, staff were mandated to continue with their set working shifts, including the Saturday duties.
“We shall not intimidate anyone, and have not, in this entire process, intimidated anyone, as alleged by unions. Neither will we be found wanting on labour rights and protection of all officials, those who are unionised and those who are not unionised, with all their rights and choices protected as per laws of our democratic country. All we ask is for reason to prevail, for responsible conduct to guide all actions, ensuring the public and all of our citizens do not lose confidence in our services.”
– African News Agency (ANA)