The Department is currently involved in a protracted labour dispute with a certain category of employees from Civic Services who are serving in the front offices. This dispute emanates from a 2005 instruction by Cabinet to open frontline offices on Saturdays.
The purpose was to ensure better service delivery to the public and to afford members of the public who do not have access to our offices during the week, an opportunity to access our offices on Saturdays. When the new system of working on Saturdays was introduced, officials were paid overtime. However, due to the department’s financial constraints, payment of overtime for employees working on Saturdays was no longer financially sustainable.
In order to continue to provide services to the public on Saturdays, the department decided to introduce a new shift system for Civic Services front office clerks which would ensure that employees still work a 40 hour week including Saturdays in line with our country’s labour laws, including the Basic Conditions of Employment Act. However, the department has always operated a shift system in other branches, such as immigration, in particular, ports of entry.
It has been eleven years to date since the department introduced the system of operating front line offices on Saturdays. The dispute with labour arose when the system of overtime payment to officials working on Saturdays was discontinued due to financial constraints and a new operational shift system was introduced.
The department and the unions engaged extensively on this issue which has resulted in the dispute being heard before the General Public Service Sectoral Bargaining Council (GPSSBC), the Labour Court, the Labour Appeal Court and now the matter is pending before the Constitutional Court.
In the meanwhile, the department and the unions agreed to engage in a mediation process to seek ways of finding an amicable resolution of the matter whilst the matter is still pending before the Constitutional Court.
To this end, the unions suggested that this mediation process cannot be facilitated by the department and therefore proposed that an independent facilitator be appointed by the GPSSBC.
This process carried cost with it and the department, in the interest of finding an amicable resolution of the matter, agreed to fund the process. The mediation sessions took place on a number of occasions at the GPSSBC.
Regrettably, the mediation has thus far been unsuccessful due to the unions tabling proposals before the mediator which the department had no objection to, and in fact went on to obtain a mandate from the Minister. The Minister granted the department the mandate, however, unions objected to their own proposals even before the department had tabled them before the mediator.
Meanwhile, and subsequent to the unsuccessful mediation process, one of the unions, ostensibly not taking the Minister into confidence, approached the Minister and sought to create an impression that it is the department that is intransigent in the mediation process.
It has now come to the department’s attention that one of the unions, NUPSAW is embarking on a protest march on Friday, 11 November 2016. Though the department respects and upholds the labour rights of employees, including the right to strike, it is of the view that the action of NUPSAW is premature as the matter is still pending before the Constitutional Court.
The department wishes to advise the public that the actions of NUPSAW may lead to a situation where services of the department may be interrupted, although the department will do everything in its power to ensure minimal interruptions.
Through the leadership of the Minister, the department, within gravely constrained budgets, is trying to give South Africans the quality service that they deserve. This has required a great deal from management and departmental officials. There has not been, even by a minute, an extension of the 40 hour week. We had to be creative within financial constraints and customise our services for the benefit of the public.
We have been honest with ourselves and also with the unions about our challenges, and we are now sharing with the public the difficult terrain which Home Affairs has to navigate. We can only hope for a resolution which does not compromise the hard work we have done, and we will continue to update the public accordingly.
For media enquiries contact Thabo Mokgola on 060 962 4982 or Mayihlome Tshwete
RELEASED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF HOME AFFAIRS