Furore as essential services list ‘suffocates’ employee rights

Members of ANC Johannesburg caucus protest outside Eskom's Megawatt Park offices in Sunninghill, Johannesburg, 9 July 2019. Picture: Supplied

Members of ANC Johannesburg caucus protest outside Eskom's Megawatt Park offices in Sunninghill, Johannesburg, 9 July 2019. Picture: Supplied

The committee suggests workers should compile a report of disputes to be referred to the CCMA for conciliation and arbitration.

A battle is looming, with at least two unions accusing the Essential Services Committee (ESC) of “suffocating the rights of employees” after they added to the list of essential services.

The ESC, a statutory body created by the labour relations department, last week announced new essential services whose employees may not engage in strike action.

According to ESC, if the services were interrupted, lives would be in danger and the personal safety or health of the whole or part of the population would be affected.

Following recent investigations, the committee declared essential services would now also include the service of road traffic incident management; boarding school services provided by house parents; sanatorium services and dispensing of medicines to pupils; security at boarding schools; reception at private and welfare centres, as well as admissions, monitoring and evaluation; pharmaceutical and dispensary services; research; the detection and reporting of fires and the supply of cash in South Africa.

General secretary of the Communication Workers Union (CWU) Aubrey Shabalala said the union would lay a complaint with the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) contesting the amendment of the right to strike for those providing essential services.

Shabalala said some essential services were not well-resourced and that could lead to difficult conditions for workers.

Shabalala said: “The rules and regulations provided by the CCMA regarding the amendment to the right to strike is indirectly attacking employees’ rights [to] retaliate against injustices.”

Democratic Nursing Organisation of SA (Denosa) spokesperson Sibongiseni Delihlazo said the law was in favour of the employer and indirectly suffocated the rights of employees. Resolutions that accommodated both employer and the employees must be found.

He added: “Today, you have nurses who would go on for … sometimes years without being paid their bonuses and uniform allowances, and yet are expected to behave as essential service workers. What about the aggressor – the employer who keeps on breaking promises …’’

The committee suggested instead of industrial action, affected workers should “compile a report of collective disputes [to] be referred to the CCMA for conciliation and arbitration”.

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