Wednesday, 31 May 2017
Today’s media briefing was convened to provide more information on the working hours’ dispute between the Department of Home Affairs and the Public Servants Association (PSA) and other unions. We have also noted media reports claiming the PSA is bent on using the upcoming conciliation as a platform for leveraging industrial action.
The Department and the PSA and other unions representing our staff, will be going for conciliation, on 6 June 2017, as the Constitutional Court instructed in its judgment of 4 May 2017, to try to have this matter resolved. And, for us, as management, this is precisely what we want to see, in the interest of the department and, importantly, of the people who will be affected by the outcome.
Our concern as management is how we improve, day in and day out, the mandatory services we offer to South African citizens, residents and other clients. We have made it very clear that we would like to expand access to high-quality public services, be it through modernisation, automation of systems and processes, or repositioning of the entire department properly within the security system of the state so that it delivers fully on its mandate to provide secure and efficient mandatory services, promote economic development and support national security and interest.
In this quest to enhance service level, thereby increasing client satisfaction, we have ensured never to be found wanting on labour rights and protection of officials. We know we cannot afford to exploit any one of our officials. Thus we believe we have acted, consistently, within the confines of the law. In this case, we have adhered to the prescribed 40-hour week. This we have ensured even when we adjusted our shift system and introduced new opening and closing hours in 2015, as well as opening our offices on Saturdays, to accommodate those who do not have time during the week.
The people have no other alternative for the services they are getting from us, therefore this resolve on our part to become even more accessible and responsive to the needs of the people. Cabinet has itself resolved that to assist our people who need public services, our Departments be among those that offer services even on Saturdays.
It is this that preoccupies our minds, the capacity to offer reliable and accessible services. Failure on our part to do this would mean that families cannot bury their loved ones. It would mean people cannot travel anywhere outside South Africa. It would mean SASSA cannot provide child grants as this is dependent on birth certificates.
In short, there is no life if Home Affairs is closed down. This is what we are as a department taking to conciliation next Tuesday. Whichever way things turn out, our concern is to have the interest of the public served, and not to score points at the expense of the public good.
As we go for conciliation, Civic Services Front Offices will continue to open on Saturdays, to offer services to citizens and other clients. The sooner this impasse is resolved, the better for all of us. We need each other to move the department and South Africa forward. The repositioning of Home Affairs is a mammoth task whose success hinges also on strong partnerships and buy-in from all of us, as stakeholders, including organised labour.
I thank you.
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Issued by the Department of Home Affairs on 31 May 2017