Pretoria– Home Affairs Director General Mkhuseli Apleni says the department is doing everything in its power to avert disruptions of service delivery during the looming strike.
The Department of Home Affairs has been served with a notice to strike on Monday, 19 June by the unions representing employees at the department.
Apleni said if the strike is to take place, it would affect the mandatory services Home Affairs provides to citizens.
Addressing the media in Pretoria on Thursday, Apleni said while the department seeks a solution to end the stalemate with employees, the status quo regarding working hours remains.
“Officials are expected to comply with the current opening and closing hours, including service provision on Saturday.
“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,” Apleni said.
On Tuesday, the Department of Home Affairs and the unions sat for conciliation at the General Public Service Sector Bargaining Council (GPSSBC), in line with the Constitutional Court’s directive that the dispute be referred for conciliation.
The department has been engaged in a protracted dispute with the Public Servants Association (PSA), the National Health Education and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) and the National Union of Public Service and Allied Workers (Nupsaw) on the issue of implementing new opening and closing hours.
The unions objected to officials working on Saturdays, which, according to them, officials would effectively be required to work for six days a week, as opposed to five days.
Apleni said the proposal the department tabled at conciliation that officials be granted a day-off on Wednesdays for every Saturday worked, was intended to cure the challenge of limited personnel.
“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 six days a week, and remain within 40 hours,” he said.
Apleni said if all else fails to avert the strike, the department reserves the right to act responsibly, in the interest of citizens.
“The needs and aspirations of citizens define our very existence as public servants. They deserve better.
“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 the laws of our democratic country,” Apleni said.
According to Apleni, Saturday work was implemented since 2004. Between 2004 and 2010, the department 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.