Below is a brief interview Political Analysis South Africa’s Stephanie Naidoo had with Noel Desfontaines, HOSPERSA General Secretary regarding the investigation by the Essential Service Committee as to whether the services included in the notice below are essential.
The following notice was gazetted with reference to the investigation by the Essential Service Committee:
Notice is hereby given in terms of section 71, read with section 70(2)(a) of the Labour Relations Act, 1995 (Act No 66 of 1995 as amended), that the Committee is in the process of conducting an investigation as to whether the following services are essential:
- Lifeguards at beaches;
- Radiology services;
- Services in relation to the manufacture of total parenteral nutrition; and
- Services performed by medical officers in public health care
What is the status of the Essential Services investigation process?
Oral representations started on 13 July 2017 for the above-mentioned notice and will finish on 24 July 2017.
There are various implications of the notice. According to the CCMA, an essential service refers to a service which, if interrupted, would endanger or inconvenience the life or the health of people. As a result, employers and employees engaged in services designated by the Comittee as “essential services” will not be permitted to partake in strike action. What is HOSPERSA’s position in relation to this?
We acknowledge that institutions designated as essential services cannot be permitted to take part in strike action due to the nature of their work. However, the fact that these employees may not embark on a strike should not be used by management to negotiate in bad faith. This leaves our members frustrated. Regardless of whether they are permitted to strike or not, management should come to the negotiating table with good intentions and not use this fact as bargaining tool.
What will the implications be for members of the Union be should they be legally prevented from partaking in industrial action, and what alternative recourse will employees be entitled to?
This means that our members are prevented from exercising their rights and this will also affect their working conditions if the strike is about the working conditions that need to be improved. Should our members be legally prevented from partaking in strike action, the Union will look at other avenues available to address the issues that they would be striking for. Hospersa has a good legal team that would provide guidance on what members can and cannot do in addressing their concerns aside from having to embark on a strike. There are other forms of industrial action which include work-to-rule.
What would the best possible outcome of the Essential Services investigation be for the employers and employees implicated?
The best possible outcome would be for the Committee to direct parties, in terms of section 72 (1) of the LRA, to conclude a minimum services agreement in respect of those services that the employers want to be designated as essential. This will give us a chance as a union to make sure that we bring in our own conditions while negotiating to conclude a minimum services agreement.