SOUTH AFRICA (June 7, 2017) – DHA workers set to strike June 19 as union, officials fail to reach agreement

The strike would cause significant delays at airports and to in-country immigration services

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IMPACT – HIGH

Labor unions representing workers in the Department of Home Affairs have served the DHA with a notice to strike starting June 19 after the two sides could not reach agreement yesterday on a working-hours dispute.  

Key points: 

  • A strike appears highly probable. The work stoppage would cause significant delays at airports and to in-country immigration services, as airports and DHA offices would operate with skeleton staffs. Services handled by South African consular posts abroad should not be as severely impacted, as few consular posts are staffed with DHA employees.
  • Regular operating hours are expected to continue until June 19.
  • In a statement, the DHA said: “In light of these developments, the Department wishes to advise officials that the status quo remains and that officials are expected to comply with the current opening and closing hours for Civic Services Front Offices.” 

Background: As BAL reported yesterday, the dispute stems from the DHA’s decision to adjust employee shifts when it changed its offices’ public opening and closing hours in 2015. A sticking point for the union is that workers are being asked to cover Saturday shifts, adding an extra work day to their schedules even though, according to the DHA, employees are still on 40-hour work weeks. The DHA said in a statement that it offered to let employees take Wednesdays off to make up for the Saturday shifts, but the unions said they want the order implementing the 2015 schedule reversed and that employees should be allowed to work Saturdays, but only if they volunteer to do so. The unions initially said that workers would strike in July if an agreement was not reached, but after the two sides failed to reach an agreement yesterday, the unions moved up their timetable. Workers have now informed the DHA that they are set to strike from June 19.

BAL Analysis: Those planning travel to South Africa on or after June 19, or who will need in-country immigration services in the coming weeks, should take note that a strike is highly probable and make backup plans if necessary. The strike would be for an indefinite period, meaning the possibility of a prolonged work stoppage is possible. BAL will continue to follow the matter and will report to clients on significant developments.

This alert has been provided by the BAL Global Practice group. For additional information, please contact your BAL attorney.

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