Home Affairs, labour unions going for conciliation

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Pretoria – Home Affairs Director General Mkuseli Apleni says the department, Public Servants Association (PSA) and other unions representing staff will be going for conciliation on 6 June, as the Constitutional Court had instructed in its judgment on 4 May 2017.

This is in a bid to resolve the long-standing dispute between the department and the unions with regard to working hours and overtime payments.

Addressing the media in Pretoria on Wednesday, Apleni said the department is in favour of conciliation, as it is in the interest of the department and, importantly, the people who will be affected by the outcome.

“Our concern as management is how we improve 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,” Apleni said.

He said in the department’s quest to enhance service, they have ensured never to be found wanting on labour rights and the 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,” said Apleni.

Case background

The Department of Home Affairs and the unions have been at loggerheads following disagreements over working hours for front offices, including Saturday work. The change of working hours, including Saturday shifts, was a Cabinet decision aimed at ensuring better service delivery to the public.

In order to give effect to the Cabinet decision, and given the then capacity constraints of the department, a decision was taken to appoint contract workers to complement the permanent staff and further a system of overtime payment was introduced.

However, due to financial constrains occasioned by the payment of overtime, the department took a decision to absorb all contract workers, who served the department for a period of one year or more.

These contract workers were at a lower salary compared to permanent staff members. Following the absorption of contract workers, the department decided to discontinue the system of overtime payment, which resulted in the department saving about R140 million per annum.

The unions then approached the General Public Service Sector Bargaining Council (GPSSBC), complaining that the department has taken away the system of overtime payment. The Commissioner ruled in favour of the department and subsequently the unions decided to pursue litigation at the Labour Court.

The unions, not happy with the ruling, approached the Labour Court to set aside the Commissioner’s ruling. The Labour Court ruled in favour of the unions.

The department was not happy with the ruling and approached the Labour Appeal Court and sought the opinion of an experienced Labour Law Expert. – SAnews.gov.za   

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